Saturday, May 26, 2018

Trinity’s LaMaMa program wows in their “Search for Home”



On Friday, Dec. 7, the Trinity LaMaMa theater and dance company presented an ensemble performance piece showcasing the collaborative work of Danielle Conley ’14, Henry Moorhead ’14, Malcom Moon ’15, Marisa Tornello ’15, and Hannah Postman of the Oberlin class of 2015. The showcase was a culmination of skills the students acquired in the Fall 2012 Trinity/La MaMa Performing Arts Semester in New York City.

“Searching for Home” explored themes of displacement, migration and self-identification, from the perspectives of historic and contemporary personas. The cast took on the roles of an Underground Railroad runner, a Revolutionary-era immigrant, a 21st century American-born middle-schooler, and two immigrants – one a young German girl, the other an Italian mother – who come to America through Ellis Island.

By narrating their individual experiences through monologues eloquently weaved together into one performance, the performers did an excellent job in engaging the audience with their promising acts. Through their presentation of the original material the audience was drawn in to the thoughts and dilemmas of every persona. It was amazing how the performance made it simple for one to relate with types of identities that one doesn’t come by on a daily basis, simply because of the universality of the overarching themes.

The show began with the cast members walking around stage to the sound of their own recorded voices, with each of them listing various first and last names. Through the varying pace of the background sound, the characters explored relations with space and movement. Their movements also explored their relationships with one another, hinting at the idea of self-identification in that they were attempting to find their own physical space, balanced in relation to others. Even though the show consisted of a sequence of monologues and the characters did not have any direct interaction, their collaborative movements served to help the audience to easily conceive the unity of their pieces.

The show, for the most part, consisted of every character alternating their moments on stage. While maintaining their individual identities, the alternating monologues allowed the audience to see the importance of identity, freedom, family and location in the “search for home.” The different perspectives reinforced the universality of the ideas. In no way did the acts come across as disjointed or awkward, as every character very fluidly took away from the thoughts that the audience had been left with earlier. In a way, the acts were perfectly woven in together.

Moon explained, “We all worked hard to not only present a message about our themes but to create an interdisciplinary piece.” This was seen in the way that every monologue consisted of more than a mere delivery of script. The actors used minimal props, but their movements on stage and the use of space played a crucial role in making the performance effective. Furthermore, about midway through the performance, the characters came together on stage, and sang an ensemble that reinforced their collaboration even through individual acts, and served to relieve the audience from the extremes of emotions that had been evoked. That being stated, while great deals of the ideas expressed were melancholic, the script and the performances did a good job to balance the acts to keep them from being too overwhelming. There was subtle humor, and the action and the songs sung by actors were crucial in maintaining an ideal balance.

At the end of the performance, not only was the audience well acquainted with the various personas, but the audience was also empathetic. The title of the performance was suggestive of more than just the physical ‘home,’ a sense of comfort. Home comes across as not just a place but a state of mind. It is easy to relate to such themes from one’s own experiences, and the company did a great job in going a step further and exploring the idea through a multitude of cultures, as well as through time. Ideas of heritage, sense of acceptance, as well of the feeling of comfort were among some of the ideas effectively portrayed.

For those interested in Theater and Dance, the Trinity/La MaMa program in New York is an excellent Study Away option to consider. Moon attests to this in his statement, “I’ve learned so much about myself as an artist and the role art plays in society.” The program exposes students to the world of theater, through internships it offers that allow for one to not only attend a myriad of shows, but also meet great artists. Having New York City as a campus itself is the dream for those interested in theater, and it is easy to take advantage of what the city has to offer, while in the program.

Michael Burke, who according to the company has been successful in “helping students tap into deeper levels of creativity that they didn’t know existed,” directs the program. The company further acknowledged that “Without his guidance this piece would not have been so strong.”

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