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Target Demographic

How on earth is my demographic (18-34 year-old, male, (and, let’s be honest, straight and white), or possibly 18-49, etc.)  still the most coveted in terms of sales, advertising, and apparently Broadway?  I really want to know, because I find it a bit baffling.  It can’t be because there are more of us.  Data indicates that in 2012 50.8% of the population in the US was female.  And today, the split for move going audiences is evenly split.  From Think Progress:

The gender split of American moviegoers is just about 50/50 for every age group, which means that women hold half the power of the wallet over which movies make money. Why wouldn’t they want to see a nuanced, realistic depiction of gender and race that they see in their own lives? After all, films aren’t only accessible to white men who want to see themselves depicted in every role.

And it can’t be because my demographic is the sole driver of the economy (no matter what marketers may think).  Two years ago The Atlantic wanted to make sure I understood that, “Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech.”  The number of areas where women are the leading adopters of new technology is quite impressive.

  • Internet usage
  • Mobile phone voice usage
  • Mobile phone location-based services
  • Text messaging
  • Skype
  • Every social networking site aside from LinkedIn
  • All Internet-enabled devices
  • E-readers
  • Health-care devices
  • GPS

And yet, the New York Times considers men (not just those of us in the coveted 18-34/18-49 demographic) to be such an important demographic that they ran a story on page A1 of the Sunday, March 30, 2014 edition about how men are, “steering clear of Broadway.”  Please keep in mind that for the purposes of this article the New York Times really means straight men.

While men have been hanging back for years, their current scarcity, at a time when overall Broadway attendance is down, is particularly stark. Only 32 percent of audience members last year were men, or 3.7 million, compared with 42 percent (or 4.2 million) in 1980.

Of course this paragraph does require the reader to not think to much about math.  The 10% decrease in the number of men as a total of the audience for each year, for the years 1980 and 2013, is roughly 500,000 audience members.  And that is a big drop, but I am not sure that it should be panic inducing.  Especially since, despite the statement that, “overall Broadway attendance is down,” 2013 saw 11.56 million audience members, while 1980 saw 10 million.  Granted I did not do additional research for these numbers, I simply used what the Times provided.  4.2 million is 42% of 10 million (10 x .42 = 4.2) and 3.7 million is 32% of 11.5625 million.  Math!

The article then goes on to state that this season has not been any better

This season is not providing any relief. Yankees fans skipped the baseball-themed “Bronx Bombers,” which flopped fast. John Grisham guys passed on the adaptation of “A Time to Kill,” which closed after seven weeks. Among musicals, “Big Fish” was all about dads, and “First Date” sold shot glasses to underscore its dude appeal, yet both shows were strikingly poor sellers.

But the article fails to put the shows in context in terms of quality.  Were these good shows, to which audiences (or men, I suppose) just didn’t respond, or were they gimmicks intended to entice men regardless of the quality of the work.  We, and by we I mean audiences, are pretty good at sniffing out gimmicks, and “First Date” was clearly using a gimmick to bring in an audience.

I fail, however, to see why men (don’t forget this is straight men) should be so important that our absence from Broadway should warrant a front page New York Times article.  An exploration of a decrease in audience numbers overall, and an examination of the root causes (with some potential solutions), that is the front page story I want to read.  That speaks to the country, and the state of commercial theatre as a whole.  That strikes me as a conversation worth having.  A decline in just men, doesn’t cut it.  We are not, nor should we be, the final arbiters of success–both artistic and financial.  Appealing solely to men, for a theatrical experience, is clearly not worth it.

Yet appealing too exclusively to men can backfire. The lack of men at recent sports plays on Broadway — “Bronx Bombers,” “Magic/Bird” and “Lombardi” — surprised their producers, given the promotional support from the professional baseball, basketball and football leagues. (No leagues or teams put money into the shows, the producers said.) Tony Ponturo, a lead producer of the plays, said he and his partners were “taking a breath” before deciding whether to do another sports play.

“Tony Ponturo, a lead producer of the plays, said he and his partners were “taking a breath” before deciding whether to do another sports play.”  And perhaps that is the crux of the issue.  This all seems to be about business decisions and not the quality of the work.  What can sell?  Not, what can inspire?  And if you rely on just reaching out to men, even what you think can sell clearly can’t.

For a fun response to the New York Times piece check out this post by Paul Rudnick:  http://paulrudnick.com/secret/straight-men-and-theater/

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The problem with Privilege: A response to Witness: Uganda

A little while ago, I went to see the American Repertory Theatre’s production of Witness: Uganda. Last semester, I had seen a preview of the production that the writers, Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould (who is a BU graduate) did during the first semester, and I was hooked on the music and the story, and decided that if there was going to be any show that I saw in Boston this semester, it was going to be Witness: Uganda. The play relates the real life story of the writer/star, Griffin, who travels to Uganda with a mission organization to build up a school for the local children. He becomes distraught when he learns that the organization he is working for is not only not effectively helping the local children, but actually swindling money at their expense. His personal life gets involved as he tries to set up a structure where the children can get an education.

The play struck a nerve with me because like Griffin, I have participated in mission organizations before. Thankfully, unlike Griffin, the organization that I worked for, through the United Methodist Church, has found a way to responsibly and sustainably set up internships that are both beneficial for the local community and valuable learning experiences for the volunteers. All that aside, though, I related to the feelings that I wasn’t doing anything effectively and the frustration at the learning curve inherent in doing ministry in different cultures. I was an American, working in Hong Kong, with a population made up of almost entirely Filipina and Indonesian women, so that learning curve was exceptionally steep.

Voluntourism has been a topic that has gotten a lot of press recently, mostly because of an article that went viral to the max online a short while ago called “The Problem with Little White Girls (and Boys)”. The blog post discussed with complicated issues with doing aide work in the “developing” world. It explores how the impulse to go into poverty stricken countries and save the locals from their squalor stems from imperialistic attitudes towards the global South. As the author Pippa Biddle tells us, “On paper I am, by most people’s standards, highly qualified to do international aid. But I shouldn’t be. I am not a teacher, a doctor, a carpenter, a scientist, an engineer, or any other professional that could provide concrete support and long-term solutions to communities in developing countries.”

Witness: Uganda left me very conflicted regarding how the show dealt with that privilege. I keep going back and forth between thinking that it was a representation of dangerous savior mentality, and thinking that it was an honest exploration of the realities of international aide work. I thought it problematic that the only real perspective that is explored is that of the person in privilege, but would it be more problematic for the person in that position to have written on behalf of those he was serving? And wasn’t it at least honest that Griffin wrote only about his experience and didn’t try to tell someone else’s story? If the narrative wasn’t presented by the two educated, privileged Americans, would the story be told at all?

Like I said, I have done mission work before, and I will be working with marginalized communities in Cleveland next year. And I like to think that I do it sustainably and responsibly, with a focus on enabling local communities to continue the work on their own. In her voluntourism article, Pippa Biddle said, “I don’t want a little girl in Ghana, or Sri Lanka, or Indonesia to think of me when she wakes up each morning. I don’t want her to thank me for her education or medical care or new clothes. Even if I am providing the funds to get the ball rolling, I want her to think about her teacher, community leader, or mother.” At the end of the day, what is most empowering about the play was that Griffin was able to find a way to use his talents (his art) most effectively to create sustainable change in Uganda, which was accomplished by empowering the children he was supporting to use their education for a greater good. I think that with a bit of further development, the show will really come into its own in exploring this issue with greater depth.

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Critical Response “The Flick”

Company One’s production of The Flick honored and illuminated Annie Baker’s story of three mismatched movie workers with great truth and passion. Baker’s fifth fully produced full-length play had its New England premiere at Company One this February, re-introducing me and the Boston Theatre Community to the powerful nature of Baker’s work. Company One is no stranger to Baker’s cannon, having produced The Aliens in 2010, and The Flick is a clear cut and graceful example of Baker’s writing philosophy: theatre should portray the truth rather than the hypothesized idea around the truth. The striking thing about her writing is that the play exists in the moments between: the reaching, and the stop starting of interaction. The poetry of human connection becomes clear.

Two of the dominant aspects in the performance were the space created and impeccable use of time. These two features of the play are noticeable because they are a union of playwrighting and production: what Baker wanted in her stage directions is the only way that this play could work, and Company One did a brilliant job illuminating these choices. They mounted the play with great respect to the script and story.

The production, at The Modern Theatre in the Theatre District of Boston, begins as the audience walks into the space to find their seats and sees dozens of other chairs mirrored back at them. As they puzzle where to sit and where the action is to take place, the set itself has already given a clue that the audience is to serve as an uninvited observer of the action. Having this layout present from before the beginning of the play puts the audience in a place of unease, initiating the idea that everything they are about to see is something that they are not allowed to be seeing. Because Baker’s text focuses on the intimate interactions shared between the characters, putting the audience in a place of the silent and unsolicited observer forces the audience to bear serious witness to the humanity of the characters and private moments of the play.

When Rose starts to kiss and touch Avery, it is clear that he is using the movie screen as his focus point to keep it together. However, because the audience is the real receptor of this moment, I not only felt pain for Avery in watching the scene, but I also felt like I was being forced to bear witness to something that I had not signed up for. Baker’s reflective stage encourages audience members to be actively uncomfortable in seeing personal moments between characters not usually seen onstage or in film. “The main characters in the play are a black guy, a woman, and a Jew (although I no longer make Sam’s Jewishness obvious). And that was important to me when I started writing the play”(Baker, Interview with Tim Sanford.) By putting the audience in a relationship that mirrors that of the characters, Baker is asking the audience to engage with the play in a way of seeing non-traditional characters and being on level with them: meeting them eye to eye.

The space also is home to another critically important character: the projector. The projector itself houses the 35 mm film which inspired Avery to being working at “The Flick” in the first place, as film is one of the few things helping Avery deal with his depression. The projector serves as another energy as it symbolizes moving up in the world of “The Flick” (Sam always wants to learn and is never given the chance, Avery gets to do it almost immediately, creating a large conflict between the two) but it also symbolizes something that each of the characters are looking for: a sense of authenticity. Avery, Rose, and Sam all struggle with who they are on the inside and how they are being perceived by one another. They struggle to convey the truth. The projector is what Avery considers to be the most authentic as it plays real film, which him has deemed better than digital. This is why he heavily identifies himself with the projector: it gives him a sense of truthfulness in a world made of “stereotypes” of people.

While the projector itself means very different things to the three of them, in the end, the ceremonial gifting of the projector to Avery is a moment of unity. Sam is giving away his goal from the beginning of the show to help Avery move past his depression and back into school. Avery accepts this as Sam’s unspoken apology for the dinner money fiasco and both of them talk about healing and moving on. The projector polarizes them and brings them together, and is authenticity in a world being usurped with new and “better” technology.

The three-hour play is spent splitting the difference between witty character building dialogue and moments of silent interaction and communication. The length in the New York production “polarized viewers” (Wallenberg), and maybe it’s Company One’s decision to divide the play into three acts instead of two, but the play earns every moment from Sam and Avery’s first entrance to Sam’s exit in the very last moments. This is due to the extreme bravery in Baker’s writing to create pauses and open spaces that speak more than her dialogue. Plays are calculated, by many, with how many pages of text they take up. Baker boldly writes in such a way that the characters are able to express potent truth in moments of silence and non-verbal interaction. I say bravely because, as a playwright, Baker must then trust that her words and the people producing the work are enough to create the dynamics within those pauses. In the Company One production, I saw the characters come alive in the moments of silence between one another and even between their own thoughts.

Baker’s work is unique in that the story is never rushed. She allows the characters time to warm up into who they are onstage in order for actions and interactions to happen that could have never happened early on. If Sam’s confession of love to Rose had come sooner it would have been shocking and brash, but because I felt as if I had been watching him pine over her for months, I knew it all needed to explode right then.

The text and production of The Flick fit together like popcorn and butter. Company One produced a show that allowed Baker’s artistic voice to breathe through the room at all times and never apologized for a three hour production or the powerful dynamic of the space. Instead, the play lives like each of the characters: taking time to develop, trying to find a sense of truth, and leaving me with hope.

 

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Critical Response to “Becoming Cuba”

For their 2013-2014 season, The Huntington Theatre decided to produce local playwright Melinda Lopez’s Becoming Cuba, a story following a strong woman trying her best to shelter herself and her family from the growing military disputes in Havana. It’s a narrative that separates family and country, past and present, loyalty and impulse into independent choices one must decide between. Almost exactly one year old, Becoming Cuba was commissioned by North Coast Rep and has travelled from the opposite coast to delight Boston theatregoers with the help of a creative team that includes Director Bevin O’Gara, Dramaturg Charles Haugland, and Scenic Designer Cameron Anderson.

The play is set on the brink of the unexplained explosion of the USS Maine in 1987. The Spanish American War is soon to follow, however this play depicts Cuba before American military involvement and the high tension between Cuban rebels, Spanish aristocrats, American reporters, and the civilians only trying to live through it all. The play is almost entirely set in owner Adela’s medicine shop, a position usually not granted to women in this time, but acceptable with the inheritance of her late husband’s lease. Her excitable sister Martina is a nice contrast to the weary Adela, and they seem to support one another healthily before the introduction of Adela’s half brother Manny, a passionate Cuban rebel, Davis, a good intentioned American reporter,  and Isidore, a smug Spanish lieutenant general.

Lopez manages to represent each national power through character and place them inside the medicine shop at one time without destroying one another. This is perhaps one of the most successful parts of the play, for Lopez accurately depicts the political climate through the rising and falling tension. Parallel to historical events, the tension has boiled up to a point that an explosion is inevitable, it’s just a matter of when and with whom. It is clear early on that this medicine shop has become somewhat of a safe haven, a constant in a time of fluctuation; inviting to the Cubans and suspicious to the Spanish. The slow integration of Spanish influences represented by bodies, gloves, and bullets, raise the tension even further and the haven becomes less and less safe. However despite growing tensions, there is a resistance to be bold in this room, a necessity to always be thinking critically. Strategy is clearly a key tactic of the rebellion and it makes for engaging scene work.

The setting itself bursts the play wide open. Martina says in the first act that it a medicine shop isn’t profitable – people get sick, buy medicine, then get better and don’t need it anymore. The shop must adapt and sell beauty products, sodas and candy to survive. Contrary to her changing scenery, Adela is stubbornly tied to the past, for any bold move towards the future hurts her. Only hours after she had almost kissed Davis, she witnesses her sister successfully finishing off the task and again sinks back into a traditionalist view. But around her the world is changing; innocent irresponsible Martina receives a bullet wound, military tactics turn into guerilla warfare, Crops are burned in the hopes of Spanish disinterest, and a celebration turns into a riot. The thematic thread of adaptation grows until it’s no longer feasible for Adela to rely on hope. She must make the largest sacrifice and destroy this home full of senses; smells, tastes, memories, all brutally colonized by Isidore through the pouring and smashing of expensive products while carrying her own sister’s ear, a sensory organ, around his neck. The flame she ignites is a mark of how much one must abandon when colonized.

Because the play used tension as a primary dramatic tool, it was quite obviously when it sank and the play became safe. It’s a difficult path to navigate, for I was thoroughly interested that political conflict and war was something Adela was used to. The past thirty years was wrought with fighting, Manny was even shot in the head as a child. War is all Adela has ever known therefore she is well versed at pleasing both sides, maintaining her sustainability with expert skill. But because the fighting was not new for her, it was not new for me and therefore had little stakes. The fact that fighting raging outside her window was something to be expected is an interesting and foreign thought, but it does not change the fact that at times the play lulled and the conflict I believe I should care about I stopped caring for.

Something that helped the problem above was the humor sprinkled throughout the play. Entering the theatre I wouldn’t expect this play to carry many laughs but surprisingly it had a fair amount of chuckling. Unfortunately only about half of the jokes landed and the ones that did served to give the room with a more comfortable atmosphere. If the stakes for the fighting had been raised and the humor was used as more of a coping mechanism, it could have the potential of moving patrons to the edges of their seats for most of this lengthy show.  Instead, we sat back and were treated to a few ghostly appearances of figures who failed to serve the play as a whole. Each apparition spoke directly to the audience and provided a little context and a lot of contemporary references. They seemed to be reaching out to connect with the audience but without much to say. I believe the play speaks well for itself and these additional character weren’t needed. Or if they were, I would hope their point could be made clearer.

Overall the show was a pleasant passage into a history I had little knowledge of. The primary characters were clear, the narrative was easy to follow, the setting was illuminating and when tensions rose it became quite engaging. The safe haven of the medicine shop was simply too safe for too much of the show and lowered the stakes. But despite any issues, I believe it’s well written and provides an important perspective of a history in which Americans are not familiar with.

 

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A quick update

This is an update to a post from last month One Step Forward, and….  In that post I noted my excitement about the Olivier nominations for best director.  Three of the four nominees were women, a watershed moment in the history of the award.  The ceremony happened earlier today, Sunday, April 13.  I am happy to share the news that Lyndsey Turner won best director for Chimerica.  You can find the full list of winners here.

I think it is also important to include the big winner of the night–an award so prestigious that it has a sponsor.  The MasterCard Best New Musical went to The Book of Mormon.  Given the play’s success at the Tonys this is not too much of a surprise.  However, The Guardian’s reflection on the event has caused me to think about how awards like the Olivier reflect the quality/value, or lack there of, of a specific show or artist.  The Book of Mormon has been very successful, both in the US and the UK,and knowing it is from the creators of South Park makes the play intriguing to me.  But The Guardian has made me aware of a play that may be more deserving of the investment of my time.

But I am saddened to see, in the best musical category, the Young Vic’s The Scottsboro Boys coming away empty-handed while The Book of Mormon walks off with a stash of prizes: a direct repeat of what happened at the New York Tonys. Mormon, while being fashionably tasteless, ended up endorsing the status quo. The Scottsboro Boys seriously questioned it. By using a minstrel show to expose a case of racist bigotry in 1931 Alabama, it not only set up a brilliant contrast between form and content but asked us how much had really changed. It didn’t deny the possibility of progress. It just asked how far America had travelled in the past 80 years.

I feel like The Scottsboro Boys falls directly in line with the texts we are exploring in Contemporary Drama, and challenges the normative lens.  I look forward to learning more about the show.

 

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Being the Playwright in the Room

I’ve been wanting to post for a little while now about the experience of writing and producing a new play for my senior thesis. It’s probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I wrote the first draft of the play in the first semester of my junior year, took a break from it while I was studying abroad, then returned to campus my senior year and have been doing rewrites and readings for feedback since September. This has been an entirely new experience for me in many ways; in fact, the only thing not new for me was literally the writing. I’ve loved writing my whole life, which is why I felt the truest impulse for my undergraduate thesis was to write over anything else. It exemplifies my desire to create theatre and put my own voice out in the landscape rather than solely focusing on how to tell other people’s stories. However, I was used to writing for pleasure whenever inspiration struck me, which is not exactly how one goes about getting a play production-ready. Throughout the writing process, I charged myself with making my own deadlines, being open to receiving feedback (sometimes reluctantly), deciding which notes were most important, how to incorporate those notes into my next draft, and gearing up to perform major structural overhauls of the whole thing. This process, at once turbulent and sluggish, finally led to a draft that the director and I were proud of and could hand to the actors in rehearsal, though knowing there would be more edits made in the room.

Now we are in the midst of the rehearsal process, and negotiating how I exist in the room has been a challenge. I will backtrack again and explain that how my director and I have figured out how to work together on a new piece was a journey that started all the way back in the fall when we agreed to work together. We were already good friends, and finding our working dynamic as playwright/director as it coexisted with our friendship was difficult at first. It required being honest with each other, as well as challenging each other in a positive, productive way. We also needed to make sure we were on the same page about our mission and goals for the play itself. My director needed to let go of trying to steer the play into a direction where he saw it going and trust my vision, and I needed to let down my defenses in order to receive the helpful feedback that he provided. Ultimately, the agreement we landed upon was this: I am the authority on the text, and though my director can provide input and feedback, I get to decide which notes to take and which to leave. Likewise, he is the authority on the production, and I can provide feedback which he can in turn take or leave. This is a fair arrangement that allows us to both have creative authority over our own theses without compromising the artistic goals of our partner.

Something I knew logically going into this process was something that proved to be harder to put into practice: the production is not just my play. Obviously the production is the work of not only the playwright but of the actors, director, designers, etc., and these varying forces when united can produce something greater than any one of them would have been able to make it on his/her own. However, as I found, it is another thing entirely to see one’s work nestled in the hands of others and letting go of the idea that I can be in control of how it is presented. I was fortunate enough to have found collaborators that I trust, so I have confidence that their choices will be in line with my intentions for the piece, and also that they can bring ideas to the table that I’ve never thought of which enable me to learn more about the play myself. In the same way that a playwright has to let go of the desire to control how an audience responds to their play (everyone will always experience a play differently), the playwright must also trust her collaborators to bring the play to life in a way that stays true to the text but also honors their artistic choices.

Part of my stress around being in the rehearsal room as a playwright came from a fear I have of not owning my own voice or authority. To what extent do I have an obligation to speak up about my own intentions? What happens when I think the director or an actor has a totally different idea of a character than what I think I’ve written? Do I just trust their instinct or do I say something to defend my piece? An article recently published on HowlRound entitled “How Do We Make It? Directors and the New Theatre Landscape” helped to shed some light on this issue for me, especially this quote:

Some folks say put the play in the center of the room. We say put the play in the center of yourself and respect that it lives in the center of each of your collaborators as well. Allow the possibility that your interpretation, your proposal for the performance text will yield if not an answer suitable for the final draft of the show, a totally valuable experiment in the search for that final draft, one that will inspire similar proposals from your collaborators. Instead of fearing that you’ll “get the play wrong,” start from a place of adventure, a place of possibility, let the work on the page inspire your creativity instead of minimizing it. Here’s why this is important: good plays are ones that support multiple interpretations. … If we try to “director-proof” a play to insure only one interpretation, it shuts down a play’s ability to support a multiplicity of meaning. If we make the play too finite, it can only exist for one group of people at one point in history (and that is of course fine, if that’s what you’re after), but if we want plays that expand the form and invite in new audiences, then we need plays that are built for interpretation. We need collaborators and theaters that support this very theater-centric practice of making meaning together.

This idea that there is no ideal version of the play was comforting to me. There are a lot of different choices that could be made which would have different effects for different moments, but they are choices worth exploring to find which is most fitting and provocative for the production. The article also introduced the notion of the script as a “powerful tool among many powerful tools” – the text is not gospel: it is a living organism that has a lot to say but still has room to be impressionable. One of my acting professors here once taught me that the text of a play provides the “black space” and takes up 30% of the page; the other 70%, the white space, is for the actor and director to fill. I do want to be a playwright that leaves a healthy chunk of white space. I do want my collaborators to feel like their artistic agency is being honored, and I don’t believe that the text ever needs to be compromised because of that. New plays are weird beasts; they breathe and move and adapt in the room. All collaborators have important voices that need to be honored because we do not make theatre alone. 

I have learned A TON through this experience, and I am grateful that I got to have my first production go up in an educational environment. This way, I can make all the blunders I want and learn about how I operate as a playwright (which was also surprising sometimes) in a place where my professors and colleagues are here to support me, offer me advice, challenge me, and ultimately further my development as a theatre artist. The “success” of the play is really secondary to the experience of developing a new play for the first time. Having this laboratory space to discover that for myself has been a true gift, and I feel more confident going forward after graduation as a playwright and a developer of new work.

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The Struggles of Immigration Portrayed Within The Theatre

 

A SHIPPING CONTAINER, BOUND FOR THE UK.

THE CONTAINER IS A NEW PLAY BY CLARE BAYLEY. DIRECTED BY TOM WRIGHT AND PRODUCED BY NIMBLE FISH, THE CONTAINER PREMIERED AT THE 2007 EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL, 3-26 AUGUST.

THE SHOW WAS SUBSEQUENTLY REVIVED BY YOUNG VIC IN 2009 WITH SUPPORT FROM NIMBLE FISH.

… the whole entire production takes place inside of a shipping container. The premise is that illegal immigrants are being transported to the UK by Turkish smugglers. Bayley puts her audience in the position that her characters are in. 28 people sit inside the shipping container in pitch black and the online lighting used during the production are flashlights.

            The “human cargo” in the container are all on the run from private and political traumas in their homelands of Afghanistan, Somalia and Turkey. As each character reveals themselves at the beginning of the play my anxiety began to grow. The conversations made amongst the people were real. As tensions rose, true character began to show. Greediness, selfishness, suspicion, and hostility becomes evident in the atmosphere of the claustrophobic container.

The playwright explains on her personal blog

Immigration has always been an integral part of our country’s make up, and never more so than now. Yet despite this, the coverage these stories get in much of the mainstream media focuses entirely on a xenophobic, NIMBY-ish little Englander point of view. The real story – the story of what people have come from, what they have gone through to get here, and what they are confronted with when they do arrive – is largely ignored.

            What intrigues me about the piece in general is how emotionally connected the audience must become with the performers. You sit there, the whole performance, next to these actors portraying such a hyper realistic situation. You smell their sweat; you experience their fear, their anxiety, and their genuine panic. When the door of the container swings open, you are genuinely as scared as they are… or at least I was watching the performance, and I wasn’t even there in person.

            The performance is unrelenting. Just when you think a situation is solved amongst the travelers, another tense situation is presented. Tensions are always at an all time high and every situation needs to be dealt with in desperation. Audiences are faced to experience something that is very real today… the idea that people’s identities are not their own in many situations is a daily struggle for so many people. These people are running from lives that tore them apart in search of some sort of hope and promise. Promise that someone else spoke of and they are risking their lives to obtain.

‘The performers bring a raw energy to their roles…a finely tuned ensemble’ – Critics’ Choice, The Stage Edinburgh

‘Burns with an urgency few other shows will be able to match’ – 4/5 stars, The List

            I truly hope these performances are effective to the audience like it was when I was watching it. It made the topic of illegal immigration something real and for some people it’s the only way to survive. I still don’t have a definitive idea on how I feel toward the situation, but I know that this play caused me to stop and think… think about these people and everything they risk to try and find a better life; and because of that I think this play should be done. 

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