Friday, January 12, 2007

Under 30 at Out North

Under 30 is Out North's annual production of local actors (and often people with no acting experience) performing their own work, which has to be under 30 minutes long. What was particularly interesting was the influence of Lisa Kron on two of the pieces. Kron's performance in October which I discuss in the linked post, was a one woman show with three story lines intertwined, including a slide show of the trip she and her father took to Auschwitz. In her case, the slides were imaginary, but she used a pointer to point out all the details to the audience. All three stories were told simultaenously, so she had to move around the stage as she switched from story line to story line. The spot light would go out in one place, the come on to capture her in another spot on the stage picking up that story line.

Pam Cravez' "The Art Show", which she began to develop before Kron's performance here in October, reminded me immediately of Kron. She too talked about her father. Instead of imaginary slides, she had actual paintings of her father on easels on the stage. As Kron used the imaginary slides to help get into her stories, Cravez used the real pictures.

In "Three Continents" Kristina Church, Vicki Russell and Mark Muro each told their own travel story using the same Kron technique of interweaving the stories but here each story had its own actor. In some cases the two other actors would slip into supporting roles for the other two stories.

At the post show discussion, the actors thanked Kron for helping them work on their productions while she was here. It really is a great example of how a tiny regional theater can benefit from importing national talent for short runs of their show AND for workshops with local actors. Her influence was very visible in last night's performances.

The final piece, "Merrow" by drama therapist Joan Cullinane transformed the audience. After slithering in as a mermaid, she used puppets and the audience to run through a damning indictment of modern bureaucratic pychology professionalism. It was deeply moving, funny, and she raised important issues about mental health and mental health care. Her character's persona took over the small theater and the mesmerized (a word used by two audience members in the post-show discussion) audience. When she asked audience members to find the cards with the DSM Code Numbers of different mental illnesses under their seats, and then called to the stage all those who had the 'winning' diagnoses, no one hesitated to join her on stage and act out their symptoms. This piece should be seen by lots and lots of people, particularly those health care professionals.

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