PW Presents: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow is Enuf

There is only one more chance to see For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow is Enuf in the Downspace and I highly suggest you take it.

This emotional piece weaves monologues and movement into a depiction of the simultaneous hardship and empowerment of being a woman of color. The fourth wall is broken down throughout the play as the actresses stare directly at their audience. The show twists through stories with jolting endings, making this actor/audience connection all the more unsettling–and effective.

While the show issues a trigger warning for rape, domestic abuse, violence, mental health, and suicide, there are also light-hearted moments that breathe a sigh of relief into the piece without trivializing the more severe material. The poetry is lyrical and layered and it is worth it to see the show just for the brilliant script. But what infuses the text with gripping significance is the incredibly dedicated performances given by the seven actresses. Directed by Nikteha Salazar ’16, this show is brutally honest and complexly beautiful.

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PW Presents: The House of Bernarda Alba

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The House of Bernarda Alba, written by Federico Garcia Lorca and celebrating its 70th anniversary this Sunday, tells a tragic story of oppression. This weekend, the intense drama comes to the PW in a powerfully unique rendition directed by Sam Keamy-Minor ’16.

Upon entering the Downspace, I was first struck by the beautiful set. Designed by Miranda Friel ’15 and Keamy-Minor, it aptly sets the tone–one of tension and priggishness–soon to permeate the play. Next, my eye focused on the stage; the daughters of Bernarda Alba were already onstage, responding to constantly-sounding church bells like puppets on a string–an ominous choice, as throughout the play they’re quite literally caged in their own home.

Bernarda, offstage, has already been assigned a tyrannical identity by the maids, who feverishly scrub the floors. La Poincia, played by Ana Marx ’18, establishes herself as a relatively unbiased third-party figure with relation to the dysfunctional household, while her assistant, played by Kathy Ng ’17, emulates the matriarch’s terrifying nature. Bernarda is finally introduced. Jaclyn Licht ’16 perfectly captures the widow’s domineering nature as well as her intense obsession with maintaining the Alba family’s social reputation.

As the play devolves into tragedy, the five daughters begin to emerge as distinct personalities. In their own ways, each exhibits her own struggle with the loneliness and brutality of life at home. Angustias (Ali Murray ’18) lives in the fantasy of life outside the walls as Pepe’s wife; Magdalena (Calvin Nickelson ’18) sleeps through the day, isolated from her sisters; Amelia (Sammie Chomsky ’18) passively follows along with her sisters; Martirio (Kate MacMullin ’15), the ugliest of the sisters, broods, lonely and unrecognized by men; finally, Adela (Marcus Sudac ’17), the youngest and prettiest of the sisters, struggles to contain her blossoming sexuality and vivaciousness.

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PW Presents: ‘Leo Baum’s Guide to Articulating a Skeleton

Fletcher Bell '16 as Leo Baum.

Fletcher Bell ’16 as Leo Baum.

The most recent PW show, Leo Baum’s Guide to Articulating a Skeleton, is ostensibly based on a series of historical events set off by an explorer’s failed excursion to the North Pole in 1897. The explorer, an American named Robert Peary (who ten years later did reach, or very nearly reach, the North Pole) made acquaintances with an Inuit tribe as he passed through Alaska, and convinced a small number of the tribsemen to return with him to New York. Those that came were taken into the custody of New York Museum of Natural History archaeologists; within a year, all but one died of tuberculosis.

The survivor, Minik, was a young boy at the time, and a Museum employee adopted him and raised him in New York. Minik’s father was among the deceased Inuits, but never received a proper burial, as the museum wished to study his bones; a teenaged Minik, discovering this ruse, initiated an ultimately unsuccessful struggle with the museum to regain possession of the skeleton.

All of these things lurk in the margin of Leo Baum, but none are at the heart of the play–that role falls to Leo Baum (Fletcher Bell ’16), an elementary school student whose father, Saul, seems to have adopted Minik, now grown to adolescence. (In real life, a curator named William Wallace adopted Minik.)

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What to do this week: February 19 – 21

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Thursday, February 19:

If you caught Sunday night’s episode of Girls, you’ll remember that the show introduced a new character named Mimi Rose Howard, who went to RISD and graduated with a BFA in Sculpture. If this reference whet your appetite for gallery-hopping at the neighborhood art school, you’re in luck! Thursday is packed with back-to-back openings. May you meet many young artists who go by “a woman’s name and a man’s name with a flower stuck in the middle of it.”

Event: Apparel Department Opening Reception
Location: Woods-Gerry House, 62 Prospect St.
Time: 6 – 7:30 p.m.

This exhibition will showcase the work of RISD’s Apparel undergraduates: consider it the Providence version of Fashion Week.

Event: ‘2015 RISD Faculty Biennial’ opening reception
Location: RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St.
Time: 7 – 9:00 p.m.

RISD’s version of the Whitney Biennial, this show highlights new work by the artists and designers who teach at RISD. The museum guarantees a show as diverse as RISD’s course catalog, boasting apparel, textiles, painting, printmaking, ceramics, glass, sculpture, illustration, photography, jewelry, metal-smithing, graphic design, industrial design, architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, film, animation, digital media, furniture, and more.

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PW Presents: Wonderland

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As soon as it begins, Wonderland, directed by Rebecca Carrol ’15, sucks the audience into an incredible, fantastical land. Framed by a breathtaking set designed by Yoo-Jin Shin ’18 and Ziyi Yang ’18, Wonderland is an interactive play that allows viewers to experience this Lewis Carroll’s mystical world first hand. Within minutes, the audience is left to explore the grounds and interact with the various characters. From there, a dramatic plot unfolds as viewers move from conversation to conversation.

One of the play’s most striking features is the integrity of its actors. Every performer commits completely to their role, adopting various idiosyncrasies and never breaking character for the entirety of the show. The cast members’ performances are unbelievably strong, even during moments in which they are not in the spotlight. Each character is interesting on their own, which can perhaps be accredited to Wonderland‘s unique writing process.

Described as a “devised” play, each member of the “Wonderteam” (which includes the cast and crew) helped create a script for every cast member. Because of this process, referred to by Carrol as “devising and conquering,” at any given moment, every cast member can be found behaving according to what can almost be described as their own personal, ongoing storyline.

As viewers hop from character to character, they also almost switch between intertwined mini-plays, complete with their own dialogues and monologues. This combination of individually functioning characters and the larger, overarching plot creates for a multi-tiered play in which the characters are as interesting as the central plot itself.

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Musical Forum Presents: Cabaret

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For Jenn Maley ’16, Cabaret is a story of survival and gilding. According to her, the characters do whatever they can to survive–the decisions they must make are heart-breaking, but they do what is necessary in order to continue living their lives–while the Nazi party, which will transform Germany into a nightmare, rises to power as a glamorous party.

Maley particularly emphasizes how important it is to capture the initially positive image of the Nazi party for many Germans–something she learned from Alice Eichenbaum, a survivor of World War II who has spoken to the cast and will speak again to the Brown community this weekend (more on that later). Maley infuses these two ideas into her envisioning of the Broadway classic, introducing them in the shadows of Act I and bringing them to the forefront in the harrowing tragedy of Act II.

The effect is incredible; Maley’s complex conceptual comprehension of the play transforms this production into an incredibly powerful entity.

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While the beginning feels somewhat stagnant and one-dimensional, the play catches fire during the Schneider-Schultz engagement party. This scene is where the darkness beneath the veneer of the Nazi party is first exposed.

This darkness is compelling, and the creative team’s unique touches–especially in lighting and choreography–accentuate the discrepancy between the fantastical world of Sally Bowles and the real, ominous nature of the rising Nazi party. This duality snowballs into the second act, where the play evolves into an untamable and passionate tragedy. This is where the true magic of this production, the decay of the principals, comes to the forefront.

The minimalist set (just two central platforms and an elevated platform on each side of the theater), which was at first somewhat disappointing and confusing, takes on a whole new meaning as the glitzy world of the play’s opening dissolves into the darkness of the changing times. The uncontrollable second act tumbles towards an electrifying finale where, in its final moments, even the Emcee’s façade is literally stripped away.

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