POSTED ON JANUARY 20, 2010:
Death Becomes Them
Troupe tackles difficult subject matter with humor, humility
Resting in Peace. No aspect of death is off limits, and the vignettes broach subjects such as suicide, cancer, zombies, the death penalty, necrophilia and the afterlife in 50 Swats’ commissioned piece, The Grace Project.
Death is the only certainty life has to offer. And, certainly, everyone has had some sort of experience with death. Those who work at Grace Hospice, providing end-of-life care to dying Tulsans, experience it more often than others.
This is why the hospice's director, Otis Eversole, commissioned a piece of theatre on the topic from the 50 Swats Writers Collective. That piece, titled The Grace Project, premiered last weekend at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.
"We deal with life and death issues everyday, and we're always looking at different ways to explore life and death issues," Eversole said.
He was familiar with some of the 50 Swats' past work and expected the group to come up with a few interesting ways of asking and answering the difficult questions that circle death.
The goal of the project, Eversole said, is the benefit of the community, not Grace Hospice. The hospice is interested in helping people in the community deal with their feelings about death, he said, and commissioning this work from 50 Swats is just one way of doing it.
Eversole couldn't have chosen a better company to tackle such a difficult and complicated subject. As is the collective's style, its writers explore themes of life and death through short scenes and monologues. And, as usual, they do so with brutal honesty and thoughtful humility.
No aspect of the topic is off limits, and the vignettes broach subjects such as suicide, cancer, zombies, the death penalty, necrophilia and the afterlife.
Most of the scenes deal with the topic of death from the perspective of the living--the only perspective any of the show's writers can know about for sure. But, beyond that, the show attempts to deal with death from the perspective of the deceased as well. It is an ambitious goal, and the show's writers and actors achieve it with care, empathy, creativity and humor.
At only an hour and 45 minutes, the show moves quickly, and the pieces are arranged well. The show opens with a couple of clowns (John Cruncleton and Owen Froeschle) semi-mocking death and society's fear of discussing it. Then, Cassie Hollis beautifully and hauntingly describes death in Amy Wilson's Eurydice.
In a series of scenes, Joseph Gomez offers lessons on dying, literally and humorously describing the various methods of death employed in cinema and literature. The work ends eerily with a scene by Julie Ann Seals called "Ehekarusel," played by Angela Adams and Heather Sams.
Guitarist Greg Mize and drummer Steve Beard provide the musical interludes and aural effects and even make a couple of cameos in the play.
Aside from the aforementioned, the actors are Amy Carlin Lee, Any Axewell, Starr Hardgrove, Robert McClellan and Grace Weber. John Cruncleton leads the team of writers, which includes Jason Watts, Adams, Gomez, Sara Cruncleton, Tom Waits and W. Blake.
50 Swats' work has always impressed me, but there wasn't one bit of The Grace Project that I didn't enjoy, that didn't stir my emotions or evoke feeling.
The Grace Project continues this weekend, Jan. 22-23, and next, Jan. 29-30, at 8pm at the Nightingale Theater. Tickets are $8. Visit nightingaletheater.com for more information.
No Strings Attached
On Jan. 22 and 23, at 7pm and 11am respectively, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust's Imagination Series presents The Hobbit, a life-size puppet production by Theatre Sans Fils (Theatre Without Strings).
The event is recommended for children in the third grade and up, and tickets are $8. The program will be presented in the Tulsa PAC's John H. Williams Theatre, 110 E. 2nd St. Go to tulsapac.com for more information.
University of Massachusetts ceramics professor Rebecca Hutchinson opens an installation titled "Bloom Dynamics" at the University of Tulsa's Alexandre Hogue Gallery, 2935 E. Fifth St., Thursday, Jan. 21.
Using handmade paper, natural fibers, gauze, sticks and unrefined clay, Hutchinson creates flowers, nests, spider webs and other objects of nature.
"In nature, there are diverse states of existence that I continue to study: the structure of nature, the result of the state of nature by interaction with other forces of nature, the resilience of nature and the complexity and awe in the engineering of nature," Hutchinson writes in her artist's statement. "All these states of nature are rooted and formed in the motivation for the need to survive and provide endless possibilities of art construction, influence and conceptual framework.
"And, more specifically, for metaphor; speaking for the depth and complexity of living with the hopes of revealing the human condition in visual, sculptural form, utilizing traditional and non-traditional ceramic materials and processes."
"Bloom Dynamics" runs Jan. 21-Feb. 18. It opens with a reception from 5-7pm, and, prior to that, the artist will present a lecture at 4pm. Both events are free and open to the public. More information is available at utulsa.edu/art.
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