POSTED ON MARCH 7, 2012:
Absurdly French Marigolds
Chamber music takes a trip, while two local theater groups offer a look at relationships
Two children meet in the nursesí office, unaware they are beginning a relationship that will span many years. Doug rides his bike off the roof, and Kayleen, who cannot stop throwing up, are the two colorful characters in Odeum Theatreís presentation of Gruesome Playground Injuries at Nightingale Theater, March 8-17.
Taking a unique approach to directing, Sara Phoenix, Erin Scarberry, and Whitson Hanna are each directing a section of the play.
"Gruesome Playground Injuries is written as a series of non-sequential scenes. That structure made it a perfect script for sampling a directorial collaboration. When you have several directors working together to create one cohesive piece, there are a lot of passionate discussions. That passion, coming from three different hearts and minds, can propel you to ideas and places you never would have found on your own," Phoenix said.
This unique approach to directing is not without its challenges and obstacles.
"Obviously, each of us came to the table with different views of how specific details should be executed on stage. This collaborative process demanded that we were open to hearing each other's ideas and would maintain a willingness to adjust our own thinking and find a path that we all thought worked well," Phoenix said.
"I think we each had our minds changed at least a few times in discussion and rehearsal. But, that passion, that discussion, pushes you to new levels, artistically. In this case, I feel it really worked well and that the end product is greater than if any one of us directed it on our own, without the influence of the others."
"The benefit is having three strong opinions. The challenge is having three strong opinions," Scarberry said.
"I guess it could be more difficult by having three directors who might not feel the same way about every choice, but we worked surprisingly well together and it ultimately suits the nature of the play," Hanna said.
Odeum Theatre Group, formed in 2009, strives to push the limits of theater in Tulsa by introducing compelling new works that challenge both the artists and their audiences.
Hard to Heal.
"There's quite a bit of history and relationship already built in with the people working on the production. Four of us attended the same college, and many of us have worked together a lot at Odeum," Scarberry said.
"The show spans nearly four decades and covers the ups and downs of a challenging relationship between the characters, Kayleen and Doug. Yet, there is all this absurdist humor woven through the script and a very obvious acknowledgement of theatricality," Phoenix said. "So, in between establishing a very truthful, sincere relationship between the characters, the actors have to balance these other elements without losing the genuine nature of their relationship. We are so lucky to have the talents of two experienced actors, Dara Allen and David Lawrence. Even they would tell you this piece has been a challenge."
What's so gruesome about these injuries?
"I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say the injuries are indeed gruesome, in the truest sense of the word. I will say that pyrotechnics and extreme stunts are involved in their creation. And, one could argue the figurative use of the word, as well. I guess that is what is so great about this piece: it will spark discussion," Phoenix said.
"Love hurts, and I'd love for the audience to feel that bittersweet sting! It's a story of unrequited love, and the things we do to get in the way of our own happiness," Scarberry said.
Odeum Theatre presents Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph March 8-10 and 15-17 at 8pm at The Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St. Tickets are $10.
French Feast for the Ears
Tulsa Symphony Orchestra's Flavors of Europe Chamber Series has taken audiences to many destinations, and the next port of call is France. This one night only morsel of French goodness will feature songs by composers Couperin, Saint-Saens, and Debussy. "As has been the theme for this entire series -- the music, the wine, the cheese, and to an extent, even the atmosphere, is intended to help us experience the featured country as best we can while still being at home," said Todd Cunningham, director of marketing for the Tulsa Symphony. "The music of the evening is all by French composers. While being at Philbrook enjoying the tastes of France, we hope the audience members will close their eyes during the performance and imagine they are in the halls of Versailles or a small theater in Paris and consider what the composers might have been experiencing as they wrote this beautiful music."
Cunningham, who loves all things Cannes and Mediterranean, gives us a glimpse of what this special evening has in store for participants and what it is like to perform at Philbrook Museum of Art.
"The concert will be held in the Patti Johnson Wilson Hall at Philbrook with the wine and cheese served in the foyer just outside the entrance to the room. It is always a pleasure to do anything at Philbrook. The musicians of Tulsa Symphony love to perform there. Our community is so fortunate to have this treasure in the heart of our city and it is an honor for our staff to work with their staff to hold an event such as this."
Cunningham also gives us a special sneak peak at what the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra has in store for future engagements.
"Later this month we have a very exciting program, Mahler's Symphony No. 3 featuring the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, Tulsa Youth Opera, Tulsa Boys Singers and Tulsa Children's Chorus all performing with Tulsa Symphony. These collaborative events, where several of our city's talented organizations come together to entertain the community are always incredible, and usually very moving, experiences."
The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra presents The Flavors of Europe Chamber Series, March 9 at 6:30pm at Philbrook Museum of Art. Call 918-584-3645 for reservations.
Coming of Age
"In the modern world of divorce and separation, two-parents-working to make ends meet leave latch-key children alone after school; Grand-moms and child-moms raise children -- how does an individual emerge as a happy, productive, and well-adjusted adult? Is this still possible?" said Jim Queen, director of Theatre Tulsa's Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon.
"From the Victorian 'children should be seen and not heard' through 'my parents taught me to walk and talk, and now they just want me to sit down and shut up,' strains on the American family have reached the breaking point. Mothers take the lives of their own children due to stress, children kill each other over designer sneakers, and children murder their parents for every reason imaginable and not-so-believable, and society finds no ready remedy.
"This is a coming-of-age story for both Matilda and her mother. The catalyst is achievement earned through effort and inspiration from a teacher, rather than from a nurturing adult in the home," Queen said.
"Beatrice, the mother, learns her parenting efforts have produced ugly results she never intended, and the major dramatic question seems to be 'Is it ever too late to change for the better and repair damages of the past?' Luckily, Beatrice finds inner resources through the model of patience and inner beauty exhibited through her youngest child, Tillie, to attempt the near-impossible. Nature vs. nurture, Dr. Spock, Skinner boxes, tough love, scared straight, et al, have attempted to explain the delicate balance between parental control and childhood freedoms," Queen said. "Paul Zindel used autobiographical material to write his 'memory play' to leave us with a hopeful answer and his own survival of a challenging childhood is indelibly written on American theater history. The Pulitzer Prize Committee agreed, awarding this play with the honor."
Rehearsing such a play, especially during character development sessions, might bring up some old memories, good and bad, for actors and later for audience members who experience the performance. How does one stage such a play?
"Rehearsing this play has naturally brought up the memories of slights and triumphs of school life and adolescence from each of the individuals involved in the play. As we have shared and relived and found connections to the text to inform our audience about the poet's message, we have all grown as individuals. That's why we have tried to make this a memory play -- Tillie can finally come to terms with what she remembers about growing up and try to forgive and understand her mother from an adult perspective -- a luxury not given to powerless children in circumstances beyond their control. The depth of the hopelessness, despair and dependencies exhibited by Beatrice reveals Tillie's ability to tell her painful story truthfully to help others who might be in similar circumstances," Queen said.
Theatre Tulsa presents Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds at the Liddy Doenges Theater of the Tulsa PAC March 9-10 and 15-17 at 7:30pm with a Sunday Matinee on March 11 at 2pm. Tickets are available by calling the Tulsa Theater office at 918-587-8402, the Tulsa PAC Ticket Office at 918-596-7111, and at myticketoffice.com.
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