Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Fall Theater and Dance Thesis performances please audiences

Malcom Moon ’15

Contributing Writer

Last week kicked off the Theater and Dance departments’ presentation of senior thesis performances for this fall. Seniors who are Theater and Dance majors have the opportunity to direct their own projects, stemming out of the skills that they have acquired thus far, coupled with their personal interests. While watching an on-campus student performance is always exciting and inspiring, to watch a student directed project makes the experience all the more enticing. On Wednesday, Jackie Taylor ’14, and Nikki Cella ’14 presented their theses performances titled “The Journey of Forgiveness” and “What’s Underneath Must Be Released to Be Understood.” This was followed by Meredith Kasslers,’ ‘14 senior thesis, “Will We Ever See Eye to Eye?” that was performed on Thursday. The theses were presented at the Trinity Commons Performance Lab, and were successful in engaging and arousing the audience on both nights. 

On Wednesday night, the show was started off by Professor Leslie Farlow who introduced her advisees, Jackie Taylor and Nikki Cella who directed performance projects. Taylor presented her thesis performance first. The performance greatly combined the use of a combination of text and movement to tell a story. The story centered around the testimonies of a character who is an alcoholic husband and a drug addict (portrayed by Billy Siems ’14); as well another, who is a drug dealer (portrayed by Aymara Heath ’14). While the two characters had individual monologues, and were independent from each other, they collaboratively had a powerful impact on the audience. The characters used text to plead to the audience for forgiveness, by claiming that their bad actions did not stem from bad intention. This raised the question of how we place blames and accusations in society, and whether a bad action that comes out of good intention can still be categorized as a crime. In addition to the text, a trio of dancers, Nikki Cella ’14, Stephanie Hewett ’14 and Carolyn Meighan ’14 performed strong movements that complemented the text by highlighting its hidden meanings. Their movements were fluid, but of strict vocabulary combining elements of ballet and modern dance. The music used was contemporary, alluding to the time period of the issues being raised and questioned through the thesis: the present. At the end, the two characters delivered their monologues while kneeling on stage, and the performers joined them in kneeling. As the lights faded, the audience was left with a visual of lit candles. This came across as a symbol of hope, and was a strong moment in the piece. 

At the end of Taylor’s thesis performance, there was a short intermission that was followed by Nikki Cella’s directed piece, “What’s Underneath Must Be Released to Be Understood,” described as “a movement exploration into the discovery of, and relationship we have with, the dark shadow that lives within us all.” The performance began with a video projection that depicted a series of hand gestures and a woman yelling. As soon as the video ended, the music was up and the performance began. Three dancers, Julia Callanan ’16, Chelsea Cummings ’14, and Madeline Kim ’16 were  tangled up by a string on the ground, and they struggled together through a careful choreography of movement to get untangled, in order to experience a sense of release. Meanwhile, dancers Stephanie Hewett and Ella Wechsler- Matthaei ’14 portrayed  characters who were engaged in a separate conflict. Ella’s character was domineering over Staphanies’ as she controlled her movements. Eventually she began to circle around Stephanie’s character, who was attempting to make her way to join the other dancers. Eventually, the dance appeared to portray a tug-of-war like situation between the three dancers and Ella’s character, for Stephanie. The performance was extremely strong, and it engaged the audience not just by movement but also by the fact that its message was more implicit, calling for a greater audience participation.  

On Thursday, Meredith Kassler presented her thesis performance “Will We Ever See Eye to Eye?”  that she described as a combination of “three short and adapted vignettes that explore or question the progression of equality between men and women within contemporary society.” The thirty minute performance consisted of three scenes. The first, titled ‘Eye to Eye’ featuring Kassler and Forrest Robinette ’16 and directed by Savvy Reuben ’15, depicted a date scene involving an argument over who will pay the cheque. The second scene, ‘The Interrogation’ featuring Reuben and Henry Moorhead ’14, directed by Kassler depicted a scene where two people who used to date are reunited and Moorhead consistently interrogated his ex-girlfriend regarding her current love life. The final scene ‘Smile,’ featured Heath Harckam ’15 and Kassler who also directed it. The scene came across as the strongest of the three and it depicted a man and woman being questioned by the police, following an incident where the woman punched him for ‘pestering’ her to smile while crossing the street. The dynamics between the male and female in each scene were relatable situations that threw light on specific attitudes and gender hierarchies that penetrate our society. Light humor, skillful acting and powerful lighting made the overall performance extremely effective, as it not only had the audience engaged but also left members to contemplate over the questions that it raised.

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