By Daniel Holley
FAA 110 was one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken in my time at college. Since my time here at university is ending soon, I appreciated the opportunity to get a better idea of the artistic capabilities this campus has. I enjoyed the ability to learn more about our facilities at the art museum and performance centers. I hadn’t been to the art museum or most of the theaters of the performance center before, so it was nice to explore and learn about the people and resources that makes them function. We also watched many diverse live performances this semester, from joyful ballets to intense plays. It is incredible to see how different productions make use of the same stage for their own purposes.
The Shanghai Ballet’s performance of The Butterfly Lovers was the first ballet I’ve witnessed, and I was more impressed that I predicted. The dancers moved elegantly across the stage, perfectly in rhythm to the music and each other’s actions. Although it was at times difficult to understand the story they were trying to tell, their athleticism and humor kept me entertained.
Step Afrika!’s performance of Drumfolk was my favorite performance this semester. The high energy music and dancing paired with the cultural and historical significance really spoke to me. The performers did their best to include the audience in some of their musical acts as well, further raising the energy in the room.
This musical performance by Laura Kabasomi, or Somi, was our first production focused on the story of a single person. Although Somi was accompanied by her band, the stories she told and songs she sang spoke mostly of her own experiences with race and her African heritage. Her performance was filled with emotion that was clearly straight from her heart.
Getting through the Day by Anna Deveare Smith was the first performance this semester that did not have a musical focus, but instead relied on impersonations and spoken stories. Anna’s ability to capture the essence of characters both known and unknown to the audience was incredible, and the way she wove humor and more serious tones into her performance was impressive as well.
The Cabaret was one of the more humorous performances I have seen so far. The characters were relatable and engaging, and no opportunity for a joke was missed throughout the play. I was especially impressed by the narrator, who had an amazing sense of stage presence.
The following performances were viewed using the website Digital Theatre+.
Metamorphosis was a bizarre, radical shift from what we had seen so far in this class. The humor was scarce, and the characters were faced with impossible ethical dilemmas throughout. Nonetheless, Mirai Moriyama’s performance as Gregor was the best display of acting I had seen in any performance this semester. He was able to conjure a visceral feeling in me with only his body and its movements, needing no help from prosthetics or costume changes.
The most impressive feat of Virago-Man Dem was its masterful use of vibrant colors. During this performance, the cast changed between costumes that varied greatly in appearance, and the screen behind them displayed colorful murals and silhouettes that helped tell the mood and story behind the play. Visually, this was one of my favorite spectacles this semester.
The Container was undoubtedly the most bold and intense production I have seen this semester. The plot was based on real situations people still struggle through today, and it didn’t hold back in showing the seriousness and dangers of immigration. The most interesting part of this performance for me was the stage: having the audience mere inches from the cast, trapped inside the dark container with them makes this quite an uncomfortable play to sit through.
In conclusion, this class has helped me gain appreciation for various types of performances. Without FAA 110, I may have never seen a live ballet or spoken word performance. After being exposed to these different styles, I am happy to say that I enjoyed them much more than I predicted. Although my time here on campus is soon ending, I plan on attending live performances more often when I have the opportunity to. I’m thankful to the teachers and students who have led the discussions on these topics, and helped me learn more about the history and efforts of the people who make these productions possible.