Monday, September 30, 2019

AUM: "World Tour: scenes, songs, and monologues"

Theatre AUM traditionally opens its season with a showcase of "scenes, songs, and monologues". The latest installment is called World Tour that includes selections from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South America that demonstrate the many similarities we humans share regardless of national or cultural distinctions.

Some 33 short pieces are performed in rapid succession by a 23-member ensemble of Theatre AUM veterans and neophytes, giving all the participants an opportunity to demonstrate their acting skills without the burden of an entire play on their shoulders.

Played on an open-space set with minimal props, furniture, and costume, and directed variously by Neil David Seibel, Kyle Shook, Sam Wallace, and Val Winkelman, the company meet most of the challenges inherent in a showcase. -- Selections are presented out of the context of the plays they're in; each piece ought to have a complete "arc"; actors have no time to develop a role, so they must be fully committed the entire time; diction and vocal support are essential for the duration of each piece. -- And, for the most part, the AUM actors succeed.

Some of the selections suffered from either too rapid or unsupported speech, so important words and ideas were not clearly heard; and vocal and physical energy need to be sustained through the last moment of each selection. -- Highlighting a few examples of achievement in this matter are: David Wilson's piece from Amadeus, Josh Williams's presentation from Skylight, Kate Saylor's Saint Joan, and Tony George in both Death and the King's Horseman [with Kate Saylor] and Dialogue of the Gods.

How we communicate the social and political issues of the past and the present rely heavily on the powerful words provided in each script, any yet there are non-verbal expressions that do the job just as well; for example: Karen Licari's expert ballet interpretation of Kate Saylor's recitation from Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman was riveting; and Ms. Saylor's sign language telling of Josh Williams's sensitive presentation of Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore was equally focussed. -- In addition, two selections were presented in their original languages, and showed that good actors overcome language barriers by their understanding and commitment to the texts: note Nodoka Hasegawa's interpretation of No. 0 in Japanese, and Emily Aveldanez's passionate rendition of Blood Wedding in Spanish.

In a little longer than an hour, audiences were engaged in important matters of the heart and mind from around the world, by a talented group of actors. -- This next Theatre AUM season should be one to watch.