Tag Archive | "theater"

‘Down in the Dumps’ raises awareness for LGBT issues

By Cody Blankenship

Suicide awareness, depression and coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender were issues raised by “Down in the Dumps,” an interactive theater performance, on Monday, Sept. 9.

The Performance was held in the University of West Florida Conference Center.

“Down in the Dumps” is an interactive theater performance put on by Theater Delta, a traveling group of actors that perform at colleges and universities nationwide. The theater calls itself an “interactive theater for social change.”

Ben Saypol, artistic director, said Theater Delta started when he was studying for his doctorate in theater.

“I discovered that I could actually combine my two biggest passions: theater and education,” Saypol said. “Theater can be used as a powerful tool to educate.”

Saypol also said he realized, after going to an applied theater workshop (theater with a purpose), that interactive theater was what he wanted to do.

“I want to use theater to educate,” Saypol said. “I want to get the audience involved. I want to get them talking about the issues and experiencing the issues.”

April Glenn, a student counseling specialist, said in an email, “Theater Delta piqued my interest because it seemed like a really innovative approach to social change and reaching students.”

Theater Delta traveled all the way from Chapel Hill, N.C., for the interactive performance that was meant to engage the audience with issues that were scripted.

The issues that “Down in the Dumps” addresses are common at colleges and universities nationwide. It covers struggles with coming out, depression, warning signs for suicide and ways to help a friend dealing with these issues.

The performance opened up into a scene with three friends: Chris, Cameron and Sarah.  Chris and Sarah are dating, and Cameron is more distant, not to mention that she is having trouble coming out as a lesbian.  Her friends try to intervene and discover what the issue is, but that doesn’t work. Later on in the scene, the thought of suicide lingers after Cameron becomes more distant from Chris and Sarah. Cameron leaves her belongings behind and feels like she is not wanted anymore.

After the scene, the audience gets a chance to interact with the three characters.  Audience members can ask the characters questions about why they did certain things in the scene or how they felt about certain issues.

Richard Tabor, Gay Straight Alliance president, said that he hopes, “the performance allowed for the student to have an open dialogue with one another that opened both their minds and hearts to their peers’ feelings.”

Glenn said, “I was really impressed with the audience participation. I was touched by the courage of many students in sharing their personal stories. This intimate and caring atmosphere appeared to dissolve any stigma related to mental health in the room.

“My hope is that students took away the message that caring can make a big difference” Glenn said.

This event was made possible with the partnerships of UWF’s Students for Suicide Awareness, Suicide Outreach and Support and GSA for sponsoring the performance that captivated roughly 70 audience members.

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New theater production tale of hate, forgiveness

UWF’s newest theater production, “The Laramie Project,” is about the 1998 murder of a gay man in Laramie, Wyo. and its effect on the small town. (Photo special to The Voyager)

“The Laramie Project,” a documentary play chronicling the murder of Matthew Shepard and its aftermath in 1998, will be performed April 12 to 22 by University of West Florida theater students.

The play was written by Moises Kaufman in response to the hate crime against Shepard, an openly gay man studying at the University of Wyoming .

“In a way, we’re telling the story instead of performing it,” said Christopher Frazier, a junior musical theater major.

The play takes the audience through the town of Laramie after Shepard’s body was found outside the rural area. The news of the attack and death of Shepard spread rapidly across the country.

“The story is real,” Frazier said. “Kauffman conducted over 200 interviews with the residents of Laramie and made this brilliant work.”

The play addresses many of the issues that the residents of Laramie were forced to face: homophobia, intolerance, hate crimes, faith and forgiveness.

Frazier said that his fellow cast mates and him do not have singular roles. The play documents over 60 characters, and there are only nine performers.

“I cover around nine different people,” he said. “So it most definitely requires avid research into the way people move, act and speak.”

“The Laramie Project” is also a UWF Common Read assigned to incoming freshman students. In an essay titled “Kaufman’s Moment Work: A Technique That Invites Interpretation,” Sarah Ray who appears in the play, writes, “Kaufman created moment work rather than compose theatrical scenes like those that appear in traditional scripts.”

“Unlike traditional forms of theater performance, which engage the audience as passive viewers, moment work solicits a provocative and socially relevant dialogue, allowing the audience to be active creators in the meaning of the play.”

The cast of “The Laramie Project” said that the play’s director, Sam Osheroff, has pushed them to bring the story to life through passion and hard work.

“He and his wife, Kris Danford, have made pivotal strides in our education as theater students,” Frazier said, “They expect us to work and be passionate with what we do, and it’s been a privilege working with both of them.”

He also said that most of the work he and the other castmates do comes from observation of the characters’ traits and the creativity to make each individual both distinct and different.

“These are real people dealing with a real crime,” Frazier said. “I think each name in the script was treated as such.”

Osheroff said he thinks the cast is really strong and that they all work together as a very tight ensemble.

“They use a lot of physical and vocal variation to change characters at the drop of a hat,” he said.

For more information visit, www.uwf.edu/theatre.

Christienne Cloutier
Staff Writer 

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‘Earnest’ satire found in new theater production

Jack (Colin Cook) and Lady Bracknell (Nicole Dickson) rehearse “The Importance of Being Earnest.” The Theatre Department’s newest play is a satire of the Victorian aristocracy in England in the 1890’s. (Photo special to The Voyager)

Cases of mistaken identity can be a humorous misunderstanding, especially if it’s the University of West Florida’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

UWF will be putting on the play for two weekends starting Nov. 10.  The play will be on stage Thursday-Sunday on
Nov. 10-13 and 17-20.  And the cast seems enthusiastic about the performance.

Kevin Kern, associate professor of theater, said he has wanted to do this play for the past five years. He said that his schedule had been booked over the past years and that he was finally able to work on this play.

He said he likes the ideas behind the play and how Wilde makes his points.

“Oscar Wilde was making fun of the upper class,” he said. “It’s probably Wilde’s best.”

The play follows two upper-class men, Jack and Algernon, who attempt to impersonate a fictional man named Earnest for the affection of each of their fiancés.  The play satirizes the Victorian aristocracy of England in 1895.

It goes to great lengths to express the frivolousness and ridiculousness of the wealthy of that period.

Nicole Dickson, a senior theater major, plays Lady Bracknell, mother of one of the fiancés.

“I was hoping to get Lady Bracknell,” she said.  “It’s so easy to make fun of her because she is so upper class.”

Dickson described her character as dominating and as one to demand respect from not only the other characters but also the audience.

The play will be held in the studio theater at the Center of Fine and Performing Arts at UWF, using a technique called thrust. Thrust occurs when the audience surrounds the stage on three sides.  Kern said the thrust setting will be intimate.

He said more than
40 people in the cast and crew are involved with the production of the play.  They have spent five weeks rehearsing for it, and they will be rehearsing this week, as well.  He also said he expects the play to sell out every night.

Kern said he considers this play one of the top 10 comedies of all time.  He said he ranks it right behind the Shakespearian comedies.

Josh Cooper
Staff Writer 

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