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Monday, August 4, 2014

Not An Expert...- My Thoughts on Selections from the SLT One Act Festival 2014

As the title of this post admits, I am no seasoned thespian. My interest in theater is far older than my involvement, and therefore I know my opinion to be that of a novice. All the same, I witnessed all but one of the acts, and of those I saw all but two in their entirety.
My comments are in order of appearance, though I don't cover them all. I just had some burning opinions that I wanted to share. Hence, a blog post. What else is a blog for?

It Ain't Easy Being Godly While Being Married: Thoughts, Words, Dis-Tractions
Not to start on a negative note, but this performance was marked by bad theology and long-winded attempts at comedy. I mention it only to disassociate Christianity, and myself as a Christian, from its poor explanation of marriage and godliness. Aside from portraying God as a simple-minded Santa, this performance grossly misrepresented, misquoted, and took out of context the Bible. The actor appeared to have one intensity level and so missed out on communicating the complexities of human thought and emotion.
Here I learn my first lesson as a new thespian.
Just because you like being on stage, doesn't mean you should stay there for upwards of an hour.

Frozen Sisters
Justlie Cholewinski conquered her fears to perform, and she did a nice job. Kudos to her mom for hand-making a great, award-winning costume.

The Towel Lady
Well written and well acted. Though the audience caught the humor, I think they also realized the metaphor, and in spite of myself I think I got a little choked up.

Losing my Religion: A Heathen's Tale of Tooth Fairies and Atheism
In perhaps one of the most important monologues of the festival and a bold move considering the audience, Skylar Norman told the story of how logic and personal experience led him to stop believing in God. Of course, the story is unique since it is his own, but in bigger picture he speaks for an entire generation that is leaving churches by the droves and not always for frivolous reasons. As a Christian, I found his words to be vital in understanding the contentions of those with whom I disagree and effective in stirring compassion within me.

So What Else Are You Doing These Days?
Collin's intensely-expressed struggle to be a writer resonated with me. So many times I was moved to say, "Yes! Exactly! Someone understands!" Maybe I'm a biased member of his writer's group, but I have to say his second draft is coming along quite well.

First-time director Samantha Topping won a well-deserved award for her directing finesse in this short skit about a girl discussing her insecurities to the mirror. What I love so much about the performance was the gritty hope of the ending. The protagonist, in a brilliantly performed moment, does not give in to the enticing escape of death. Aptly named and well-written, I'm glad that this act was recognized in the awards ceremony.

Unconscious Subconscious
My instinct would like to skip this one, but it won too many awards and garnered too much attention to ignore. What did it have going for it? A very dedicated cast, lots of makeup, interesting set pieces and a prolonged plot. Though the judges were fascinated by the entire play, I have to contend that the writing was weak and mostly driven by shock-value lines. The plot also did not stand up to further scrutiny. Worst of all, the ending could not have been more anti-climactic. There may be a way to use vaudeville techniques purposefully and meaningfully. Maybe. But no genre is done more disservice than vaudeville in the hands of amateurs.

The Prisoner and His Cause
A shocking ending and thought provoking wording, I'm glad I didn't miss it. It was a good example of the mental games that theater can play on the unsuspecting viewer. My philosophical agreement with the content is next to nothing, though it was slightly reminiscent of Milton and for that I appreciate its artistic value.

The Thread Men
This bit was another genre that I don't spend a lot of my time on, but The Thread Men justifiably won several awards. The takeaway was an anti-simplistic way of seeing the world and other people. The blocking in this elevator set was also an interesting, attention-keeping move.

Five Dollar Bill
I don't have much to say for this triple-perspective monologue(?). I'm including it because of all the religious skits, it said the thing I am currently learning as a Christian. That my actions can be motivated by God's love for me. The writer is young and has a lot to learn, but I love the heart behind what she was trying to do. It was not legalistic or preachy, and I hope she continues to grow in her ability to communicate truth artistically.

Wait Wait...I Can Explain
Of all the acts, this was the one I had heard the most about and for some reason, I did not have high expectations. Remember, I'm very inexperienced with theater, so I had not yet learned to factor in what a fantastic cast can do with a not-so-fantastic script. (Or maybe as a writer I don't love to think that the script really isn't at least half of everything..)  I was pleasantly surprised. The play was truly funny, thanks to the excellent casting, which I have already mentioned.

The Pink Lady
I know it was long. But that was the one and only problem with it. You know you're dealing with passion when a 76-year-old woman writes her own material and travels from Kentucky to compete in a festival. I am less than half her age, and I'm not sure if I could memorize all the material and remember the subtle changes in character. History lovers enjoyed it, and I really appreciated the artistry.

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