Anna Deavere Smith, a one woman show who comes from Baltimore, Maryland, interviews countless individuals and forms portraits of certain powerful excerpts that can be recreated by her to form strong impressions on controversial topics.
Written by Willa Wu
Anna Deavere Smith performed in the Colwell Playhouse of the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on February 19, 2020. Out of the performances I have seen thus far this semester, this one was by far the most surprising.
On November 12, at the Krannert Center for the performing arts Theatre RE performed “The Nature Of Forgetting”. Which was an amazing performance about a middle-aged father who is struggling in the early stages of dementia. It talks about his memories and what he is forgetting.
Theatre Re’s performance “The Nature of Forgetting” gives a shockingly emotional portrayal of the struggles that emerge from gradual memory deterioration.
On Tuesday I walked into the Colwell Playhouse of the Krannert Center about 5 minutes late into the performance, having absolutely no idea what was going on onstage. I remember witnessing seemingly random scenes being acted out with no sense of an actual plot line or story; everything appeared to be nonsense that lacked any type of correlation. However, as the performance progressed the random scenes were repeated over and over again but with more context. This enabled the audience to piece together exactly what was happening, which was the memory deterioration of a man who was suffering from dementia.
The aspect of this performance in which I was most impressed with was the techniques that were used to indicate memories versus the present. On the stage there was an elevated platform that was used to illustrate scenes that were happening in the past, while everything outside of the platform represented present events. So for instance, flashbacks of the man when he was a student in grade school were portrayed on the elevated surface, whereas the scene with the man and his daughter getting ready for his birthday was acted out on stage. What I thought was very interesting, however, was how the actors also used the raised platform to depict the loss of the man’s memories. There were several moments where either objects or people are pulled off the platform and the man visibly tries to keep them from falling off; this demonstrates how the man is actively trying to salvage what he has left of his memories.
Another way in which the play depicted transitions between present day versus past moments were through lighting and music. Flashbacks tended to be bright with much more playful music, whereas scenes that occured during present day were slightly dimmer and completely silent. The use of lighting and music helped emphasize the nostalgia and bliss that accompany happy memories of the past.
Overall, I was captivated for the entirety of the show and I could honestly say this has been one of my favorite plays that I have attended. The depiction of happy, carefree memories could easily be related to by the majority of audience; for this reason, visually seeing the slow deterioration of these recollections were especially emotion-evoking. The performance itself was extremely intricate yet fairly easy to follow, and I would definitely recommend this play to anyone who has the opportunity to watch it.
The Nature of Forgetting’s choreography, lights, set pieces, music, and more left everyone at the Colwell Playhouse in awe. It is impressive how most of the play happened in a small block of wood, and with only four “full time” actors and two part-musicians/actors. Definitely, a revolutionary idea, with a fully accomplished execution.
The play had me sitting on the edge of the seat, curious to watch till the end of the performance. It was spectacular how the story came across so beautifully despite the fact that the show had little talking.
The performance indicated memory through the use music and sound. They used jarring music that sounded like broken minds and the discovery of memories. The play then continued with a new memory after the jarring music.
Through the use of lighting, they focused the audience’s attention on a particular object/action. There was another scene when they were watching a home movie together and I really enjoyed that one too. Each time the lighting focuses on a new object, it signified a new memory. In this school scene, they focused the lighting on the tables and the actor and actresses.
Through the use of movement, they expressed their emotions so clearly. When Tom and Isabella got married, they danced. Their dance expressed happiness because they were dancing so fluidly and with such exaggerated big actions. Other than using dance, some movements were jagged, which made it seem like a transitioning memory.
Through the use of set pieces, they reflect different scenes. The most notable set pieces were the bicycle when Tom was riding with Isabella, the school tables and the changing room. They brought out the different scenes and memories really well. The use of costumes also helps to reflect different memories and scenes. This goes hand in hand with the use of set pieces. For example, when the clothing racks and chair was in the scene, together with “Isabella” dressed in teenager clothing, it represented the present, when Tom is trying to get dressed for his birthday. However, when “Isabella” is wearing a school uniform, wedding dress or the red dress, it represented a different memory.
What a unique performance performed and directed by Deve
I like how Deve place the underlying message of protecting
the endangered animals through this whimsical play.
He used many different strategies to display the relationship between humans and tigers. From role-playing many different characters in which Deve played more than 3 characters during the play and sometimes doing 2 characters simultaneously!
Moreover, he used music and a song to talk about the fragile
relationship between the tigers and humans, how the tigers are eating the
humans and how the humans are attacking the tigers.
He did many other strategies such as repetitively playing a
certain film again and again as he shares his story.
But among all the strategies, the greatest impact is when he got everyone to do something together. One moment was when we stand up and hummed to summon the tiger spirit. I could feel the resonance on my chest as everyone hums together. It was about a whole minute of humming!
Another moment was when we got everyone to read out loud the words on the screen. It was quite shocking how everyone was so participative and with that kind of engagement, it just creates a mark to remember and bring back after the play.
Home… This is a word many people hold very close to their hearts. It is not just a physical place, but it is about the people that live in that house that gives substance and meaning to the word home.
This word also resonates in the Tiger performance it talked
about India’s Pench National Park is one of India’s last sanctuary to the wild
tigers. With tigers being endangered, it really pains my heart to see how these
home for the tigers is literally their only hope for a home in the entire
It got me to ponder deeply too, my family is the only home in the entire world, what am I doing to protect it? What am I doing to build that home? How am I thankful for that home? As Thanksgiving is coming, let’s not wait till then to be thankful and do something for our family. It starts now. What can I do today to appreciate my home? 😊
The Krannert Center takes the audience through the journey of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.
written by Allison Spillane
August Wilson is a heavy-hitter when it comes to play writing, so I was very interested to see one in person. Almost all of my experience with theater has been contemporary plays, so seeing something rooted in a little more history was exciting. Furthermore, this rendition of Gem of the Ocean featured one of Allen’s beloved RA’s! With all of this expectation, I was surprised with how this show still impressed me. Every aspect of it was so well thought out in a way that made for an astounding cohesive show.
This is my first ever theatre play experience and I must say I am very wow-ed by it! Even though the show was long, it ended off with a huge bang! It was truly a memorable first theatre experience and I wish to attend more theatre plays from thereon.
The scenery and props immediately told me that the setting of the play will be in somebody’s home. To elaborate, the costumes indicated that the time is somewhere in the past. The gents were wearing tux and vests which are really formal, coupled with a hat. The ladies were wearing headpieces and long dresses with lots of prints. The paper boat gave me the impression that the play will be a mystical journey and set the mood and theme to be an exciting one.
If I could choose one character to describe their role in the play, it would be Aunt Ester. She is an important character in the play who holds power as the soul washer. She seems to be an important figure who is well respected by everyone. This could be seen in the way everybody greets her when they enter the house. Everyone was always ready to make sure she is comfortable by washing her feet, settling her down in the sofa. She also instructs Mary to do certain chores, in which she obeys. She plays a huge part in the play and story by assisting Citizen Barlow to travel to the City of Bones to restore the spiritual balance of troubled individuals, especially so since Citizen Barlow caused an innocent death by stealing the can of nails.
The City of Bones scene was SPECTACULAR. A very essential part of the scene was the dancers. I could feel the intensity and their dedication to playing the role well and it fit into the theme of the play so well and brought a strong visual of what souls were to look like. It was a little eerie but that was the point of the dance and their movements. I really enjoyed the props that the dancers were using such as red ribbons and wooden sticks as it brought more dimension to the play.
This play transported myself to a mystical world while showing what the African American community in 1904 was like. I could feel myself being transported with them into the City of Bones and what a ride it was!
The August Wilson classic hits the stage of Krannter Center for the Performing Arts
Written by Edward Huang
Gem of the Ocean is a production written by renowned American playwright August Wilson. It premiered a while ago, but its name and legacy lives on in those that admire theater today. On a chilly Thursday night, the play made its way to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.