Tag Archives: Lydia Amezcua

A New Beginning: Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis” is a unique production, written by Frank Kafka, where the main character who is a salesman ends up transforming into a terrifying insect and isolates himself from his family and the world. This production can be found of Digital Theatre Plus and since it is produced in Japanese, there are English subtitles to understand the storyline.

By Lydia Amezcua Ramirez

The salesman, Gregor, and his family which he supports through his job

Storyline

Gregor Is a salesman who works endlessly to help support his family because he is the only one bringing in the income. One day he begins to feel ill and misses work which is unheard of from him. To his family’s surprise his illness was much worse than they expected because he had transformed into an insect that they became afraid of. Gregor spent the rest of his days isolated in his room from his family until one day he dies and his family moves on.

One of the messages that this production taught me is that one cannot solely rely on one person to always be the provider, people will have to learn to fend for themselves because you never know what life will throw at you. Another message that I was able to get from this production is the importance of family. No matter how horrified Gregor’s family were, they never tossed him out, they had to find a way to keep a financial income and at the same time keep Gregor hidden.

Transformed into an insect, the salesman crawls around as his family becomes frightened of him

Unique Elements

When Gregor was transformed into an insect, that impeded his family from being able to communicate with him as well as understand him. This production reminded me of a book in first person where the main character allows us into his thoughts. The audience watching this performance were able to understand what was going through Gregor’s thoughts as he spoke to us while the rest of the cast would be frozen in motion. This was something that I enjoyed because insects cannot speak and one wonders what goes on through their head, but this was something that the audience did not have to interpret.

Another unique element was the set of the production. Most plays and productions have various sets or different backgrounds given a certain scene that they are supposed to act out. Here, the characters performed various scenes within the same arrangement on the stage. What I mean by this is that the kitchen, living room, and Gregor’s room had to be portrayed in the same stage setup. The set up consisted of 3 stools for the mom, dad, and sister of Gregor, and a large metallic design of pipes, which took up most of the set. This was mainly used for Gregor to climb on since he had tuned into an insect.

Lastly, background noises added to the unique elements I noticed in the production. Since there were not enough props because the set was based on simplicity, there would be background noises to add emphasis during the production. For example, when Gregor’s sister had to “thump” on Gregor’s “door” for it to open, there would be noises that made large thumping sounds. I quoted “thump” and “door” because movements would be exaggerated to go with the background effects/noises and because there was not an actual door, the characters made it seem as so.

Part of the metallic pipes which Gregor, now an insect, used to climb upon

At first I was confused as to why these elements were in the production because I have never seen them. Just like the production, the elements were something new to me and given that this was a Japanese production I had to keep in mind that other cultures have different ways of conveying arts. I liked the uniqueness of “Metamorphosis” because it brought a new perspective of how other cultures may use props and storylines differently than what I am used to seeing.

Seeking Refuge: The Container

“The Container” is a production directed by Tom Wright and produced by Digital Theatre. It captivates some of the struggles that refugees face in order to seek refuge in Europe, including realistic and tragic elements.

Witten by: Lydia Amezcua-Ramirez

Beginning of the production where the refugees wait silently to not expose themselves to a possible outside threat

Asylum Seeking

The setting of this production takes place in a real life shipping container, hence the title of the production. The cast consists of six characters, all who come from different backgrounds but with the same end goal, which is to arrive to England safely and begin their new life. The other character is an agent who is in charge of getting them there. While some of these characters hope to start over and escape the violent Middle East, some hope to be reunited with their family. In the past years this was a real and serious issue. There were hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from the Middle East in hopes of receiving asylum in Europe. However, as the numbers of refugees entering the country was becoming too high, so were the restrictions, meaning that it became harder for the refugees to travel and get into Europe safely.

This production illustrates the difficulty of doing so as shown through the characters. Since they each have a story, they all reveal why they were brought into the container and how tiring their journey has been.

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Elements of the Production

  1. The need for food: In the container, the refugees would go days without food or water, having to conserve the little they had. When a woman had entered the container with them she had brought along a few pieces of bread and chocolate which she shared. The characters had never seemed so eager to eat given that they were starving. This can be expected if people are trapped for days in an isolated, dark environment like the container.
  2. Money: The journey to England would not be free, it came at a cost in which the characters had to pay money for. When the agent in charge of the refugees had demanded more money for the refugees to continue their journey they all had a rough time caving in and not all of them had the extra fifty dollars on them that the agent demanded. This seemed like a trick and a method of manipulation that one would expect to see in a real life situation like that. The refugees had come way too far to give up which is something people take advantage of.
The characters in distress of not having enough money to carry on their journey

3. Women: Just the simple fact of being a woman was a disadvantage. When one of the woman characters in the container did not have the fifty dollars that the agent demanded for them to continue, he suggested a different method of paying. The poor woman had no other choice but to follow the agent elsewhere, where eventually it can be assumed she was taken advantage of and killed because she had never returned.

The woman who did not have enough money to pay, being shoved out of the container

4. False Promises: One of the characters in the production had mentioned that it was his third time traveling to England because the agents he had hired before had tricked him and took his money. This is something that many refugees encounter, false promises of being led to safety when in reality it is a scam to take away their money. At the end of the production, whether or not the refugees got to England safely remained a mystery.

After the production had finished, all the characters entered the container and took a bow

Overall, I really enjoyed the production because it really captivated my attention and because it was on a topic that most people these days seemed to have stopped talking about. This issue was a big concern in the past but should not be forgotten. Many hear about what goes on but do not really take the time to consider all the things that refugees go through. This film did an amazing job at giving us an insight on that situation.

Lights, Music, Action: Cabaret

On March 6th, 2020 at 7:30pm the Tryon Festival Theatre presented a musical performance entitled ” Cabaret“. This performance brought about musicality, theatre, and dance while trying to portray some of the issues surrounding the time frame, WW1.

Written by: Lydia Amezcua Ramirez

Waiting for the performance to begin while others read more about the performance.

Musicality

In the performance there was many ways of expressing expressing character mood/desire. The songs and music helped carry those messages out. The music and songs in Cabaret worked to give a sense of the world of the play by subtly bringing in issues that all tie in with Cabaret. For example, a character who came from America would go to the Kit Kat Club to drink and enjoy life in Berlin, Germany because that is what most people there seemed to do, live life while partying and still having to find a way to pay rent on time. The Kit Kat Club seemed to be the place where people went to enjoy music and drink, but all of that disappeared by the end of the play when there were no more performers or people in the Kit Kat Club. This was due to the beginning of WW1 when the Nazis took power and streets/places were abandoned.

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The host of the night alongside a grand piano player

The music and songs in Cabaret also worked to give a sense of the dreams of the characters through the beat and emotion that went with the music and songs they sang. For example, one of the characters in the play was a performer in the Kit Kat Club and one of the songs she sang was an upbeat one involving not telling her mother about her being a performer because she was chasing her dream. Towards the end of the play she ended up staying in Berlin, Germany regardless of what was going on around that time frame because she wanted to continue chasing her dream of being a grand performer. The song she sang was more emotional that time around with not as much music behind her that way more emotional tone would be coming from her part.

The host of the night performing in the Kit Kat Club along with other dancers

Set Transitions

In Cabaret, the sets would transition as would any play to show the distinct parts of the Berlin setting. In between each transition, songs would be performed by the characters in the play and if not them then by the host of the night along with his background dancers. The sets of the performance included:

  1. The Kit Kat Club, where performers would perform and others went there to drink.
  2. A Railroad Carriage, where the American coming to Berlin would travel to and back.
  3. Schneider’s Apartment, the landlord lady.
  4. Cliff’s Apartment, the American novelist from America.
  5. Schultz’s Fruit Shop, the person who liked the landlord lady.
  6. The Void, an empty abandoned place.

Overall, Cabaret was a mesmerizing performance filled with a variety of music and performance style that left goosebumps on my arms. What I liked most about the performance was all the energy in the characters that remained up to when the Nazis took control. Life as they knew it would change forever because life was not something that one could spend partying without worries. It became a means of survival and the reality of the world they began to live in.

Comedian and Storyteller: Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith held a story telling event that lasted approximately an hour followed by questions from the audience who were intrigued with her work. In her performance she was able to express themes that involve issues in America. This event was held on Tuesday February 18th, 2020 in the Colwell Playhouse at the Krannert Art Center.

Written by: Lydia Amezcua Ramirez

A picture of the author/story teller, Anna Deavere Smith

Creative Expression

Anna Deavere Smith’s theater performance was unique in the way that she took interviews to perform real people. By this I mean that she had taken the time to sit down with people, have them share the story they wanted to convey to her, took their story, and performed it in a way that brought laughter to the audience yet still conveyed a specific theme. At the beginning of each new theme she told the audience what the title of each story that she would present would be. This is how I could tell that she presented a new person, based on the different titles. Also, at the end of each story she would say thank you and the audience would clap.

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Performance

Another thing to note about her performance was that she was dressed in a simplistic manner and the set was also set up that way. This is important because she was still able to indicate character without any extra garments to wear. All she needed to present her characters were her use of voice and body gestures. For each new theme she presented she would use a different type of voice to depict that character. As for body gestures, she would also keep it simple and use body movements that indicated the character she was in.

A picture of the stage, showing how simplistic the set up was
This picture depicts the simplicity of the wardrobe worn by Anna Deavere Smith

Stories Told

In her performance, Anna D. Smith was able to represent different aspects of the American past through interview in the way that she selected her themes. The people that she interviewed had a specific theme to share which she wanted to convey surroudning issues of community, character, and diversity in America from the past. For example, she had portrayed a character of a reverend during the civil rights movement. Her themes relate to the present due to the issues that occurred back then in which can still be seen today but less problematic as they were back then.

The way that this performance is different from the news or documentary films is that those are matters of factual detail and given events with names and dates. In Anna Smith’s performance she used theater to convey her characters through acting without giving away the names of the persons she interviewed for the stories. This was a creative performance on her part, especially when she was able to have the audience constantly laughing.

Somi: A Captivating Voice

On Friday February 14th, 2020 in the Colwell Playhouse at Krannert Art Center for the Performing Arts a performance entitled “SOMI” ,named after the singer, was executed beautifully. Somi and the rest of her band performed a variety of music which captivated the audience through Somi’s use of traditional jazz along with African elements.

Written by: Lydia Amezcua Ramirez

Before the performance began, the instruments were set up for the musicians

A Night to Remember

Many would spend a valentines day out with friends, partners, or just stay in. This valentines I was in for a treat given that I went to go see “SOMI” at 7:30 pm that valentines day. At the beginning of the performance the musicians came in first and began tuning their instruments. The band behind Somi consisted of drums, piano, guitar, cello, violin, viola, and bass. Once they were set up, Somi came in, in a bright red dress that really brought out the color behind such a festive day.

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Somi’s Music

Somi introduced herself and the reason behind her song selections for that night. By doing this, she was engaging with the audience every now and then to let them know the purpose of her song selections. Usually, each genre of the songs she sang had a certain meaning to it and one could feel that through her voice along with the background of the music. For example, she sang love songs in dedication to valentines day which evoked a feeling of love. Other types of songs she sang consisted of melancholy and upbeat moods.

Furthermore, throughout the songs she would interact with the musicians by gesturing at them so that the audience would give them a round of applause whenever they got the chance to perform a solo in the songs. Not only this, but she individually pronounced their names at the end of the performance so that they would all get recognition. I found this really sweet on her part because when I think of the performance I would imagine that she is the star of the show. When she acknowledged the other musicians I thought that showed a grand characteristic on her part.

Somi and some of the musicians from that night playing behind her

Given that Somi’s performance was on valentines day, my favorite song from that night had to be the one that she dedicated to the holiday. I really enjoyed this song because of the mood that she evoked through her singing and because love is in the air around this time of the month which made me fall in love with that song. As for my favorite moment of the night, I really enjoyed when Somi transitioned from singing the slow songs to upbeat songs which really showed me the diversity in her singing ranges, which were truly outstanding.

A standing ovation was given from everyone in the audience

The Stage was left just like it was at the very beginning of the performance, all the instruments and chairs in place. At the very end of the performance, the audience stood up for a standing ovation to “SOMI”. The way they stood up was pretty neat, it was like a wave since the people in the front got up first and then everyone followed after that. After a few minutes of clapping, Somi came back and performed one last song as an encore.

A Standing Ovation to “Drumfolk”

On February 7, 2020 at 7:30pm, the Colwell Playhouse in the Kranner Center for the Performing Arts Presented a spectacular performance entitled “ Step Afrika ! : Drumfolk”. This performance brought about expression through body movements, stepping to be more specific, when drums were taken away from African Americans through a legislative law in America in 1740.

Written by Lydia Amezcua-Ramirez

A few minutes before the performance began, I noticed that my ticket matched the seats and thought “wow this would be a cool shot” along with the ominous background of a single spotlight.

History of the Drum

For African Americans, the drum symbolized community, resilience, and determination throughout history in America. When that instrument of theirs was banned, they decided to use their bodies as a means to produce another form of music to express their messages. In the performance, the dancers would chant “they took away our drums..but they could not stop the beat”, and would use their body movements to illustrate that. This showed the idea of freedom and resistance as soon as they began to chant that and continued to express themselves in other ways possible.

Dance as an instrument

The dancers would conduct movements with their bodies using heavy stepping, tapping, clapping, and more which brought the message across that they would not be defeated, showing defiance against the legislation and their determination to continue creating rhythm. The dances that were performed were strongly executed which to me proved the confidence that all dancers should have to deliver their performance well.

The Dancers using stepping as strong indicators of rhythmical music.

As shown in the picture above, the dancers use exaggerated arm and leg movements to showcase the severity and the magnitude of their message through dance. The dancers worked together to bring across a strong performance in each act, staying on cue with one another in terms of body movement and facial expression. This is an example of the dancers using their bodies as instruments because they were making sounds using different parts of their bodies.

A standing ovation from everyone in the audience. What a great feeling it must have been for the performers!

At the very end of the performance a sense of community was shown throughout the audience. Everyone from the audience gradually stood up to give the performers the standing ovation that they truly deserved for their amazing performance. Not only this, but throughout the performance the performers would ask one side of the audience to clap along with their hands and the other side of the audience would be asked to clap too, but in a distinct rhythm. A standing ovation from everyone was well deserved to the performers who claimed it was only their third time performing. This was a performance that everyone must see if they get the chance to because I know I got chills since the very beginning of it.

Forever Lovers are “The Butterfly Lovers”

Written by Lydia Amezcua Ramirez

The mesmerizing ballet, “The Butterfly Lovers ” brought about a unique form of story telling through dance. A brilliant performance taken place in the Tryon Festival Theater of the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on January 29, 2020.

https://krannertcenter.com/events/shanghai-ballet-butterfly-lovers

A Delightful Start to the Ballet

The butterfly costumes introduced at the beginning of the ballet were my favorite because butterflies are my favorite insect. The butterfly costumes the ballerinas wore really caught my attention as they all scattered across the stage to show off their beautiful colors. As the lights went out and the curtain came up the performance began with a dance introducing the theme of the ballet.

Women dressed in butterfly costumes which captured the essence of the butterfly in all its grace and beauty. The dancers soon introduced the butterfly lovers Liang and Zhu along with the bully, Ma Wencai.

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The dilemma

Throughout the middle of the play, this issue seems to be the fact that Zhu is in love with Liang but he does not know because Zhu is dressed as a boy since back then girls were not able to have an education. This can be very noticeable in the ballet since all classmates in the first act were all boys. I was able to relate this to the movie Mulan when she ran away and dressed up as a boy soldier in place of her father only soon to fall in love with the general’s son. They too get close but he fails to recognize her true identity.

Act Three of the Ballet illustrated heartbreak along with reality. The heartbreak here being that Zhu could not be together with Liang given the situation she was put in by her father, an arranged marriage with Ma Wencai. Arranged marriages are the reality that many people had to go through in Chinese traditions along with other cultures.

By this part of the Ballet, the butterfly lovers have fallen in love with each other only to be torn apart by an arranged marriage. A truly saddening moment for two lovers, and a very realistic one as well, not being able to be together given financial differences. This part of the story could be noticeable as Zhu kept running back to her father, begging to not force her into the marriage. The movement of Zhou’s constant tugging at her father indicate that torment she felt at having to be forced into an arranged marriage.

As much as Zhu resists and fights her fathers decision she cannot seem to get out of the situation that she was forced into. Ma Wencai is thrilled by the arranged marriage, not bothered by the fact that Zhu does not want to marry him.

Liang could not have let go of his love without a fight and in that duel for that love he lost his life. The pain and suffering that comes along with losing a loved one affects people in different ways. The pain was too great for Zhu that she ended up taking her own life as well. A creative take on Romeo and Juliet in my opinion, turning to death in order to be with the one you love. For this reason, the fourth act had to be my favorite given the tragic yet heartfelt element it incorporated at the very end, lovers dying to be with each other in the afterlife.

Zhu and Liang reunited forever. In this afterlife Zhu and Liang transform into butterflies, hence the name “butterfly lovers”. They could not have a happy ending in real life so the afterlife brought them that. All is peaceful and happy for the butterfly lovers as everyone is dancing in colorful costumes to joyous music.

Overall, the ballet was a wonderful experience filled with humor, drama, love, death, and happiness. At the very end of the show the crowd clapped loudly for minutes as the performers took their bows. They even got standing ovations from people in the audience which proves that the ballet is a worthwhile event to take the time to watch with family, friends, or even oneself.