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Bratty - quill
Posted on Tuesday 22 April 2014 at 9:09 am

Local Plays

I'll try to get the BBC Radio post up later today. It's almost done but I've got papers to grade eating into my time. For now, have a couple of "reviews" of some local plays I went to recently.

A little over a week ago, I went to a local community theatre production of Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing. It was fun in a community-theatre kind of way. The acting was pretty rough at first but once they settled down, it got much better and I enjoyed it. Much of the audience was confused by the play and I don't think ever understood the plot, which is weird since it isn't an overly complicated story. Since some of the early speeches were rushed and hard to understand, I could see missing a few key pieces of information there, but even so it became self-explanatory fairly quickly. I suspect the problem was more with the audience. My lovely little town basically has four populations: college students, rich old people who moved here when they retired who hate the college students, tourists, and people who work service industries providing for the other three but the other three pretend they don't exist. There is a slowly growing population of professionals moving here and commuting to larger cities in the area, but there's not much of them. The tourists and service industry folks don't go to plays here much and the students don't go to much of anything off campus, so the audience was almost entirely old retried people. I went with two fellow grad students and we were joking that you could definitely add two of our ages together and we'd still be among the youngest in the audience and it might even be possible to add all three of us and still not be the oldest person there. (Photos from the production for anyone interested)

This past weekend, I went to Richmond, the closest "major" city, for a production of a new play at the University of Richmond. The play was based on a 1940s Nigerian novel about a village drunkard who enters the Yoruba afterlife in order to bring his palm wine maker back from the dead. They updated the story to be about a comic book writer who has created a comic loosely based on Yoruba folktales and myths who enters the world of his own comics. It took a bit too long to get everything in place and I didn't really understand what was happening until three or four scenes in, but I really enjoyed it in the end. There were several audience members still confused at intermission and this time I think it was more about the play than the audience. I probably had a leg up on figuring out what they were trying to do since they name-checked Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Bill Willingham's Fables, two comic series riffing off various myths / fables / story-telling tropes that I've read and loved so I could place things going on in the play more quickly than someone unfamiliar with those. The acting, staging, etc. were all well done for an undergrad play at a University not exactly world-renowned for its theatre department or anything. The characters were almost entirely Nigerians while the cast was a complete mix of ethnicities and races. The black man main character was played by a white woman, for example, and for the most part that didn't really matter if you were just willing to run with it but it did create a few odd moments. The stage was a small half theatre-in-the-round (only two sides not all the way round, but felt like round in weird ways I can't explain) and they surrounded the stage and audience with sheets on which were projected images throughout. I'm not 100% certain a stage play is the best medium for the story, but I could see it making a fantastic indie animated film, even with low production costs. (Info on the play for anyone interested)

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