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  13/07/2003
Watching A Mutationesque Play At The Firehouse


harry kollatz, richmond
 
On the afternoon of July 12 I joined about a dozen people at the Firehouse to see a workshop performance of a short work creatred by Jennifer Jones Hundley, a Firehouse boardmember, and a group of actors.
What I didn't know when I saw the play--about 12 minutes in length--was that it had been rehearsed and presented in 24 hours. The five actors, two women and three men, were simply given a year, 1957, and a location, a restaurant in the South Beach section of the city of Miami, Florida. There was no text but movement and gesture.
The actors were given this situation Saturday morning and they began working movement, building characters. This is out of the teaching of Ann Bogart. The City Company in New York City is creating a full-length play this way, called "Systems and Layers."
They went home to write biographies of their characters but they didn't even share them. Sunday morning they began rehearsing their characters, with movement, and a piece of jazz music by a regional group here called The Switch, which had a kind of Latin beat. The plot was simple, but what the actors did with it amazingly complicated and wonderful to watch. A black man comes into a Southern restaurant in Miami run by a pre-Castro Cuban immigrant. The waitress and the waiter are flirting with each other, a woman comes into the restaurant, is propistioned by the black man and she sends away, the owner of the restaurant enters(we don't know at the time that he is the owner) and he and the young woman see each other, there is uncomfortable recognition, he approaches her, and they begin this dance of attempted reunion/seduction. The black man tries to break into the dance, and is told he cannot by the waiter. The woman realizes this whole situation is painful and wrong; the owner goes, the woman hesitantly leaves afterward, the black man finally goes and the waiter and waitress close up the restaurant, dance together lovingly and exit.
These were good actors, committed to the process and they obviously enjoyed the work method. For such a short time of rehearsing--this was just the seventh time they'd run the show-- I was impressed by the crisp clarity of movement and the revelation of character. Ann Bogart teaches this method for Classic theater and contemporary, too.
The Artistic Director and I were impressed enough that we'd like to see more shows done this way at the Firehouse.
Sounds to me this is something in the Mutation style--I'd be interested to hear if I'm sort of correct, or even sort of wrong.--HEK




 







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