Strong Native Women
Company: American High School Theatre Festival, Rough Rock Community School, AZ (Native American Theatre Project)
Producer / Director David Shorey
Venue Rocket @ Demarco Roxy Art House (Venue 115)
Reviewer Mairi Anderson
This production by the Native American Theatre Project is informative, moving, inspiring and very well presented.
The cast of 3 young Native American women succeed in putting over a lot of information about the current circumstances of indigenous peoples as well as about their history. I have an interest and knowledge of Native American history, but I learned a great deal from this play.
The young women have great dignity and real pride in their heritage and traditions. It is clear that for them this isn’t just a “play” – it is integral to their lives. The struggle for recognition is still going on today. It is not ancient history and their message is very much for the here and now.
One feature I particularly liked is the matter of fact way that the history of the struggles is put over. The facts speak for themselves and are a matter of public record. Atrocities are committed by every race in every place and time. It is the dark side of human nature. As a white European it is still salutary to look into the eyes of a Native American woman as she speaks of terrible inhumanity shown in another time by people of my race against her people. It would be difficult not to be moved.
For me the opening sequence of flute music and the “Mother Earth Dance” was a real highlight.
The cast of 3 girls, Kayla Haley, Andrea Woody and Violetta Sam, create a beautiful piece of work. It is asking a lot for 3 young people to carry a whole show, but they perform with great dignity, grace and passion for their cause.
Each of the young women has her own unique type of beauty. I loved the delicate hand movements of the “Mother Earth Dance”. The expressive use of individually designed embroidered capes in “Return to Mother Earth Dance” creates the illusion of wild bird flight patterns.
The costumes and jewelry are stunning and sound and lighting work well. There was a little bit of sound bleed through from other shows, but it failed to blight such a good performance from this talented young cast.
These strong young native women finish the show with the inspiring Native American parting phrase “Walk in beauty” and each of them does that so well.
I never fail to be impressed by the consistently high standard of productions brought by the American High School Theatre Festival and this show is no exception. This is a creation of which they can all be justifiably proud!
© Mairi Anderson. 14 August 2006. Published on www.edinburghguide.com
Working (5 out of 5 stars)
Saratoga High School, CA
A wonderful look at the dreams and hopes of American workers. Blueside @ Pilrig Church, 12 August 6.15pm (1 hour 30 minutes)
Adapted from a book of interviews with American workers by Studs Terkel and first performed in 1978, Working explores American working life through the actual words of those interviewed. The music is by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) and Nina Faso. Twenty-six workers sing and talk about their lives, their jobs and their hopes. The range of jobs covered is vast: iron worker, parking lot attendant, schoolteacher, office workers, supermarket checker, trucker, salesman etc.
Working is very different from most stage musicals, in that there are no lead parts and there is no unified plot. There is also no narrative thread carrying the action forward, but it is arranged so that one scene makes a smooth transition into the next and what one character is saying is related in content to the character who precedes and follows. This makes Working an excellent ensemble piece, because it gives many actors a chance to share the spotlight. It was chosen for Edinburgh by the director for precisely this reason.
Without a single lead and with no clear narrative, the musical relies on all round performance and succeeds triumphantly. Every performer sings well and with passion – while on stage he or she really is a waitress, a cleaner or a mill worker. Working is gripping from beginning to end and the time flies by. I had never seen it performed before and enjoyed it immensely. The music is also surprisingly good. Because it uses workers’ actual words, they come across as genuine and moving. A real gem. [AC, courtesy of www.broadwaybaby.com ]
Reflex Action (4 out of 5 stars)
St Anthony Village HS, MN
A rapid and humorous look at theatrical conventions and styles.
Church Hill Theatre, 18 Aug 18.30, 20 Aug 14.30, 22 Aug 12.30, 23 Aug 20.30 (1h)
Reflex Action is a quick-fire send-up of theatrical conventions, traditions, and techniques. The plot concerns two characters, Itchy and Knee, who discuss the mystery of a place called Woodpecker Plateau, which has no woodpeckers and is not a plateau. As they await the entrance of their arch-nemesis, Professor Unfrenabulous, they must endure choral drama, tableaux, body-bag dream sequences, a nineteenth-century operetta, stichomythia, monologues, long pauses, Shakespeare, Beckett and Pinter.
The production opens on a bare stage, which is intended to make a statement. At the back of the stage are the words of Peter Brook: “I can take any empty space and make it into a stage”. Itchy and Knee appear and begin to discuss theatrical conventions, including taking very long pauses for dramatic effect. They are then replaced by another, identically dressed, couple in order to demonstrate that an audience will assume that two different actors dressed identically actually represent the same character. These two use the technique of stichomythia, where two characters speak single lines of dialogue alternately and rhythmically.
They rapidly satirise Shakespeare and Beckett (“we’re waiting for somebody, but we can’t say who”) then move on to Cats, Phantom Of The Opera and Gilbert and Sullivan.
This is a fun production, which would be particularly enjoyed by anyone who loves theatre (but doesn’t take it too seriously).
[AC, courtesy of www.broadwaybaby.com ]
Upon Close Inspection (4 out of 5 stars)
Lawrence Academy, MA
An attractive and enjoyable programme of modern dance.
Church Hill Theatre, 18 August 8.45pm, 20 August 4.45pm, 21 August 2.45pm, 22 August 2.45pm (50 minutes)
This is Lawrence Dance Academy’s second time at the Fringe, having previously performed Town in 2003.
The company consists of fifteen dancers, one male and fourteen female. They perform a number of loosely differentiated movements, such as Work Lines, Dream Time, and Mothers, Children, Circles. Each movement is performed by groups of three, four or more dancers or, in some cases, the entire company.
Unlike some contemporary dance performances, the dancing is graceful and fluid and a pleasure to watch. The audience is captivated from the first movement, Boots Dragging, where the entire company is at the back of the stage and then three dancers at a time peel off in well-choreographed routines.
Most of the performance takes place to recordings of Silk Road Journeys Beyond the Horizon, Appalachian Journey and Amandia! A Revolution In Four-Part Harmony. However, the music for one movement, Lullaby, is a live performance of Slumber My Darling by Stephen Foster, beautifully played by Clare Curran, Samantha Greiff and JinHwa Lee.
This is an excellent production, which anyone who appreciates modern dance would enjoy. [AC, courtesy of www.broadwaybaby.com ]
Yearbook: The High School Musical (4 out of 5 stars) Tri School Theatre, CA
Enjoyable musical covering the final year of an American high school class. Church Hill Theatre, 19 August 12.15pm, 20 August 8.15pm, 22 August 6.15pm, 23 August 12.15pm (1 hour 30 minutes)
This musical does not have a linear narrative, but presents a series of scenes and songs showing events that take place during the last year of high school. Tri-School Theatre On Purpose is an arts training school for students at Cornelia Connelly, Rosary and Servite high schools in California and this is their first visit to Edinburgh.
The production opens at the end of the year, as students are signing each others’ year books. Their thoughts about events in the last year are shown as a series of flashbacks, beginning at the start of the year. Each scene highlights a different aspect of life in school, many of which, naturally, relate to relationships and their problems. In Boys, three girls sing about the pointlessness of boys and why they’re better off without them; Miss Jones is about a boy who has a crush on his teacher and believes that she feels the same way about him; What If has two boys singing about the difficulty in approaching girls.
Other scenes are comic; Nerd is about a boy who is academic rather than sporting (I’m A Dork, well sung by Matthew Ballestero); Accidents Will Happen has three students complaining about how it isn’t their fault that things have happened to them (although their parents may see things differently) and Grounded sees four different attempts to avoid a ruined social life.
The most tender scene is Mrs. Johnson, which is about the death of a much-loved teacher.
A very enjoyable performance; funny, moving and well-performed. Worth the trip to the Church Hill Theatre.
[AC, courtesy of www.broadwaybaby.com ]
43 Plays For 43 Presidents (4 out of 5 stars)
Dekalb School of the Arts, GA
A clever and ambitious historical play.
Blueside @ Pilrig Church, 7 August 10.15pm, 9 August 10.15am,
10 August 6.15pm, 11 August 12.15pm (1 hour 30 minutes)
The careers of all 43 Presidents of the USA, from George Washington to George Bush, covered in an hour and a half.
The DeKalb School of the Arts is a specialist high school in Georgia which only selects students who have attained both high academic and artistic standards.
43 Plays For 43 Presidents is a rapid survey of the lives and presidencies of each of the 43 men (no women) who have held the office so far. The presidency is symbolised by a star-spangled jacket that each president wears. Sometimes they fight for it; at other times they take it unwillingly and give it up gladly. Several are assassinated while wearing it.
The play begins with George Washington, who is still seen as the near-perfect president. It then moves rapidly through all the other well-known or lesser-known names. Benjamin Franklin appears, damning Thomas Jefferson with faint praise, or perhaps more accurately, self praise; William Henry Harrison becomes president largely because of his reputation as an Indian slayer; the civil war tears the country apart and Lincoln is assassinated. The most moving segment is probably that for John F Kennedy, who is symbolised by an empty jacket, lying on the floor. Finally, for the 2000 election, there is an all-out brawl until a smiling George Bush emerges wearing the jacket.
The play works well as both entertainment and information, although two minutes for each president is only enough for the most basic facts. The performers tackle it with great energy and enthusiasm, acting, singing and dancing well. A very successful production and a company to watch out for. [AC, courtesy of www.broadwaybaby.com ]
The Road (4 out of 5 stars)
Phillips Andover Academy, MA
A visually stunning look at the modern world through contemporary dance. Church Hill Theatre, 19 Aug 14.50, 21 Aug 16.50, 22 Aug 20.50, 23 Aug 10.50 (55m)
The Road is an original modern dance piece from the Andover Dance Group that explores a fast-paced digital world as foil to the world of dreams and possibilities. Created by choreographer Judith Wombwell, the show incorporates projections by visual artist Stephen Wicks. The audience is transported to New York City streets, into the binary system and then to the Great Salt Flats of America. In one section, audience members are invited to use their mobile phones to call and speak to the dancers onstage. This is the seventh time Andover has performed at the Fringe as part of the American High School Theatre Festival, but the first time they have presented a dance show.
The production is composed of four movements: The Journey, Days, Nights and Journey Continued. The company consists of six female and two male dancers, all dressed in white, but initially only one woman is on stage. She has to choose between two roads and she chooses ‘the one less travelled’. Her journey is accompanied by a soundtrack of music from Brian Eno and John Cage.
In Days, the dancers are seen moving around a New York scene, talking on mobile phones. The phone numbers are published in the programme and audience participation is welcomed. The large screen at the back shows rapidly moving images of binary digits, symbolising the fast-moving digital age. In Nights, more so than the other sections, the dancers are seen holding each other and jumping and dancing together. Music for these sections is by Sigur Ros, Radiohead and Philip Glass. Finally, the journey ends on the Great Salt Plains, impressively projected onto the screen at the back.
This is a very good and enjoyable presentation of modern dance, performed by a young, talented cast.
[AC, courtesy of www.broadwaybaby.com ]
The Shakespearean Godfather (3 out of 5 stars)
Eastview HS, MN
Shakespearean Godfather is a treat for fans of the Puzo Classic. Blueside, 8 Aug 14.30, 9 Aug 12.30, 10 Aug 20.30, 12 Aug 16.30 (1 hr 10 mins)
Eastview Theatre, a company of young high school performers from Minnesota present the European Premier of David Mann's reinterpretation of The Godfather, Corleone.
Mann's idea was simple enough - retell the Godfather in the style of Shakespeare. A simple idea, but one that required skilful handling. Puzo's story is of course eminently suitable for a Shakespearean treatment: the feuds, jealousy, bloody fights and family strife could have come straight the bard. Translating it into iambic pentameter and condensing it into just over one hour ran the risk of the production seeming like a gimmick. Fortunately the risk is avoided as show is faithful to story, humorous and well staged.
The wordplay is excellent, and the cast manage to carry it off. There are moments when their youth is evident though, with occasional lines hurried and voices forced. As some cast members take several different roles, it is sometimes a little confusing for those not hugely familiar with the original story to work out who is on stage. However, the physicality of the performance is handled well, the sword fights excellent and the final 'shoot-out' particularly well done. The show's publicity does not give names to the specific cast members taking each role, but other stand out interpretations were those by the actors playing Sonny, Michael and Fredo, with Johnny Fontaine’s swagger also noteworthy.
[KM, courtesy of www.broadwaybaby.com ]