Have you ever seen a piece of art that moves you? Was it a movie that you laughed so hard your ribs were sore? Was it a painting that stopped you in your tracks that you had to look at for an eternity? Was it a piece of music that caused you to weep uncontrollably? A piece of theatre that inspired you to take action in the community?
Here are three productions that have been on my mind lately as great productions that really had an effect on me:
Keep the Faith:
This was an original production created and performed by the Summer Performing Arts (SPA) company back in the summer of 1997 after we had a major flood that spring. The flood destroyed the city of Grand Forks and had a massive impact on the surrounding communities. SPA is a company for youth to learn about theatre, normally putting on several musicals throughout the course of the summer. This year because of the effect of the flood, as I understand it, they decided they needed to create a show for the community, by the community, about the community. It still registers as one of the most powerful productions I have ever seen. As a community during the show we laughed, we cried, our hearts sank as moments from the flood and blizzard which preceded it were recreated. As a resident of Thompson, North Dakota, my greatest laugh came in a skit where a frustrated caller talked to the local radio station that continued broadcasting important information during the flood. After complaining about the devastation to the house and the ensuing chaos, it was revealed that the caller was a homeowner in Thompson who now had a house filled to the brim with displaced Grand Forks residents. Because this scene was my experience (I slept on the floor for a month while grandparents and friends of the family occupied every room of the house), I laughed so hard at this little joke. Nothing about the production was sublimely superior to another production. The writing was simple and straight forward, the songs were simple. But it had such a powerful healing message that 10 years later the production was remounted by SPA.
The Last Black Play:
I saw this play at the Region V American College Theatre Festival (ACTF). The production was written by a student and from my understanding, produced and directed by students. In the show, the protagonist, a young African-American playwright/actor became fixated on writing a show "so black that there would never need to be another black play ever again!" The show had amazing actors, brilliant direction, and wonderful design. It would draw you in with humor, and then the protagonist would confront the audience in direct monologues where he would walk into the audience. The play hit on racial tensions, and profoundly moved me and inspired me towards my own view points as a human being. It inspired me as a theatre artist to create theatre that was enjoyable to watch and yet could make you uncomfortable with its raw truth.
Caucasian Chalk Circle:
This play was an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's play of the same name. It was the first time I had seen a show where the story telling was purposefully done throwing out realism. Masks, puppetry, original music, use of fabric and inventive set pieces all created beautiful imagery that hit me in the gut. It was a realm of the poetic in presentation. It inspired me to want to create theatre that told wonderful stories in new, inventive ways.
So how about you? What have you seen that really moved and inspired you?