Gem of the Ocean is a play written by August Wilson that was performed at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday night. The characters of Aunt Ester, Black Mary, Citizen, and Eli entertained the audience and the set gave the story an almost eerie mood.
The story of “Home” began with two small lights, a wooden frame and two plastic sheets.
When a man in casual clothes came to the stage directly from the auditorium instead of the background, I thought he was a staff at first. When he assembled the materials into a wall and changed the scene into a small bed and a door, I realized that he was an actor. There were many different people in and out of the door, such as women, boys, and elderly. Not too long after that, several decorators appeared, converting the scene into a larger house and starting to carry furniture inside. I could gradually distinguish the kitchen, living room, bathroom, study and bedroom.
Until the last piece of furniture was moved in, the hostess walked into the house with flowers, and a complete “home” appeared. The new day began with a simulation of sunshine through the venetian blinds on the second floor window and realistic barking. From getting up and washing, dressing up, and carrying the packages out, the actors presented us with different lives of different roles. The elderly did housework, the child went to school and adults went to work. This reminded me of my own life. Before I entered the college, every day after I get up, my mother drove me school and then came back to do housework. My dad had to work every day, occasionally going on a business trip. People in a home methodically handled their own life.
The most amazing thing that shocked me was in the second part. Actors began to interact with the audience actively. The little boy stepped down and invited us to taste the olives (I tasted one, but it was sour). The other actors let the audience stand and put the string of lights on the top of the head. They also invited many audience, including several of my friends, to come to the stage and participate in the party and celebrate the birthday. I was still thinking about the logic of plot just before this part, such as what the meaning is when actors entered and exited from the door at the beginning. But when the audience cheered, I felt that the logic of the story was no longer so important. Now I am part of the story, and I am also completing this story about Home.
I was immersed in the performance until the end. It turned out that interacting with the audience is the most direct way to get audience into the situation. I could not refuse this kind of interaction, which was a wonderful experience I have never had before.
I had seen a role of drag queen, Angel, in a musical named RENT before I saw this performance. I thought I knew the drag queens very well and I suppose them to be positive, bold, not afraid of gender obstruction, and brave in pursuing love and freedom. However, I didn’t really get to know them until I saw Sasha Velour.
I was inspired by the enthusiasm of people as the show started and it is clear that Sasha Velour has lots of fans here. At the moment she appeared, the screams of the audience drowned me. The first thing that surprised me was her style, a white robe, like an angel. But soon when Sasha Velour spoke, I was shocked by her apparently trained opera aria, and even began to speculate whether she had sung in the opera house. Unexpectedly, however, the transition between angel and demon was only a few seconds. When Sasha Velour picked up her white robe and revealed the red flash tights below, the whole theatre was boiling. After completely removing the white robe, she was red with the whole body, just like the real devil. This powerful contrast shocked me a lot.
After each scene was finished, Sasha Velour would take the microphone out to talk to us. It has to be admitted that Sasha Velour was very humorous and infectious. The audience naturally loved her very much and always gave enthusiastic responses.
During the break, I walked out and heard someone saying, “This is a wonderful design, isn’t it?” In fact, I have been thinking about this issue as well. Sasha Velour had incredible art talent. She turned the dress into an art, so that the performance was full of dramatic tension, and the stage background was like an unruly illustration. All of Sasha Velour’s dresses were exaggerated in color and full of transsexual style, unlike the stereotypes worn by people in the past. I believe that she must be a person who was deeply accomplished in the visual arts.
In fact, my favorite aria in the performance was that Sasha Velour’s projection on the stage screen drew a beautiful makeup, wore a waist and a red dress, put on monster ears, and appeared at the entrance of the theater in the next moment, singing “I want to fly, I am alive” and stepping down the steps to the stage. The shock of my heart at that moment could not be described in words. Everyone started to scream but I was moved to say nothing but almost wept. I really fell for this song and until I was out of the theater, I still tried to recall it.
My mind was filled with different screaming music and scenes, but I could not forget the emotion of Sasha Velour when she talked about her mother who died of cancer. Several viewers around me began to wipe their tears. When Sasha Velour sang “If you go away”, I finally couldn’t help to cry. In the last scene, she took a bite of an apple. When the light was dark, I found that the apple had moved away from her hand and went further afield. I enjoyed the quality of even the most insignificant details of this performance.
This was a performance of a drag queen, but was more of a queer monologue. Sasha Velour opened her mind, showing us her past and inner journey. She constantly emphasized that we could live more beautifully, more uniquely, and more freely. To live a true life, we should learn to love, to have our own strength and know who we are.
On September 14th, Chris Botti performed at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts with a group of talented jazz musicians. The powerful music filled Tryon Festival Center and took a variety of tempos, tones, and styles to transform this performance into something special.
Before I went to the Opening Night Party at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, I had never imagined that this party would be so grand, and I didn’t expect so many viewers to arrive there early. Just on the terrace outside KCPA, there were many people gathered. It was about 5:20 p.m. when I arrived, and the band have already started auditioning, while the food stalls on both sides of the terrace were ready for business. When I entered KCPA, I was amazed by the arrangement inside. The whole hall was equipped with many small round tables and high stools for people to chat and drink. The blue-violet lights created a perfect party atmosphere that was very different from the outside scene.
Around 5:45 p.m., several people outside were lined up in front of the food stalls, and people on the terraces were constantly going up steps and sitting. Several stages in KCPA have been basically prepared, and some interesting activities stalls have begun to publicize. I saw several passing children with delicate oil painting on their faces, which was extremely characteristic.
At 6 p.m. in the evening, Opening Night Party officially began. I bought a BBQ chicken burger from the food stall outside, and sat on the terrace steps to start watching Toko Telo‘s performance. There were two musicians playing guitar on her side, and Toko Telo had a tambourine and another instrument that I didn’t know the name. When she was singing, she beat the tambourine and shaked the other instrument to create a sound of rustle. She sang folk music and I could feel some elements of Indian songs. Toko Telo‘s singing was full of rhythm, and to my surprise, her treble was very good. I wrongly thought that her voice was more suitable for low-pitched songs at first. Every time when she finished a song, I couldn’t help but applaud with the crowd.
After a while I went back to KCPA to see other performers. I watched Andy Baylor‘s solo and Bombino‘s performance. The former’s songs were country music and the style was lyrical, while the latter’s songs were more lively and had more national characteristics. Bombino‘s performance caused the audience to cheer and almost became the focus at that moment.
It was a nostalgic departure when I must say goodbye to Opening Night Party. It let me enjoyed the music from different regions and I was very grateful to FAA 110 for offering me such a wonderful experience that I’ve never had before.
FAA 110 has led me to some great performances. I was able to broaden my knowledge as well as my creativity in only one semester. I was given opportunities that aren’t easy to find on this campus. Every trip to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts was FREE, as well as entertaining. You can’t get that just anywhere. This class gave me the opportunity to see such a wide range of performances as well as artists. Everything that I experienced this semester will be remembered far beyond college. I may not have loved every single thing that we went to see; however, everything was a new and different experience that I will remember.
Overall, this semester has been pretty amazing. I loved being able to attend these events and experience some new things on campus. This was definitely a wind down type of class where you could just enjoy being in the space. I’ll miss FAA 110 and everyone in it.
I took FAA 110 because a friend told me it was a good class. It is my last semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, so I wanted to try something different. this class opened my eyes to different genres of music. I have never been into classical music unless it was to go to sleep. Most of the performance was interesting and some not so much. I did not make it to all the required performance however I made them up with different ones. Over the course of the semester, I made a blog post after each performace.
Here is a list of my favorite performances from best to worst.
The variation in performance and the expounded exposure left me convinced of the potential in the instrumentalists in this genre. There was growth in each combos presentation. Growth that I could see at both the individual and collective level.