The Grappler Reacts: 2019-2020 Season Announcement at The Theatre School

By Grappler Staff

As a publication housed in The Theatre School, The Grappler believes that there comes time when it’s necessary to comment on the happenings of our institution. We commend the transparency and goals that the Dean of TTS, John Culbert, has expressed throughout the season selection process. This year, TTS has paid special attention to that approach, and how it can be an ongoing conversation with the entire school. In this same spirit, The Grappler is launching an annual reaction to the season announcement, beginning with this: a discussion of the challenges and opportunities presented by each selection.

Luchadora! (Playworks 1)

Luchadora! written by Alvaro Saar Rios will hit the Reskin stage this fall and I could not be more excited. This trilingual play deals with Mexican-American traditions and female empowerment: two aspects of our world that should be affirmed. The play celebrates Lucha libre, a form of Mexican wrestling, as a  tradition that should be recognized as a real and respected activity. As a Mexican-American female, I find it is often rare to see representation within the theatrical community. Considering there are not many Hispanic students at DePaul I see this as an opportunity for TTS to share this narrative with DePaul students and the Chicago area. Women can be warriors while still carrying family traditions; the young protagonist of this show will exemplify this greatly. I can already feel myself connecting to this performance and I expect of my peers. Mexican-Americans deal with the challenges of becoming Americanized, losing tradition, and finding a solid balance between new and old family values. This has, and still is a struggle for my family. Luchadora! will be a great reminder for Mexican-Americans of where we come from especially for those of us who are out-of state students. ¡A los caballos!

Polaroid Stories (Healy 1)

Naomi Iizuka has woven Ovid’s Metamorphoses with the lives of street youth to develop Polaroid Stories. For research she conducted interviews with “young prostitutes and street kids.” The characters in the play live through immense tragedy. I believe the director, Stephanie LeBolt, who says that this is going to be a beautiful production, but at the same time I am concerned about the ethics and authenticity of the production. Not everyone in TTS has had a perfect upbringing, but there is no way the cast will have experienced the class and race struggles that this play presents.

Our Lady of Kibeho (Watts 1)

Set in 1980’s Rwanda, Our Lady of Kibeho explores the lives of three young girls who claim to witness a vision of the Virgin Mary. The show provides a rare opportunity for our acting company. Director Phyllis Griffin, stated that she wants to work with a cast of color. She additionally wishes for the entire team to be people of color, including design and production. The Grappler endorses diversity off stage that mirrors the cast. We hope this vision is possible for the Design/Tech and Theatre Studies departments.

Brooklyn Bridge (Playworks 2)

In a Brooklyn Rail interview, Melissa James Gibson describes this play as Theatre for Young Audiences “that doesn’t condescend, that tells the truth and that doesn’t insult the scope of kids’ imaginations.” Brooklyn Bridge is a location-specific journey of a young girl named Sasha on her quest to find… wait for it… a pen! As Sasha, a Russian immigrant, interacts with several members of her building, she realizes the importance of communal support. The Grappler is thrilled that Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences has programmed this beautiful show that speaks truth to Brooklyn architectural and cultural traditions.

Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom (Healy 2)

Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom is unnecessarily traumatic. Technology wins in this anti-gamer tragedy, manipulating teenagers through a Pokemon Go-esque zombie fighting video-game to kill their parents in the real world. When announcing the production, Mallory Metoxen explained that this play is relevant because it grapples with our generation’s reliance on technology. The Grappler is concerned that the play is problematic. It presents the common video-games are making our kids violent! debate without doing any of the work to defend its point or provide solutions. Neighborhood 3 is a warning-play that traumatizes its audience to prove a point.

The Rover (Watts 2)

The Rover–a Restoration comedy–stands out in a season of mostly contemporary plays. Playwright Aphra Behn presents a world filled with sexism, violence, and attempted rape. It is a problem play with proto-feminist intentions (“it’s a reverse Taming of the Shrew”), and director Melanie Queponds does not seem shy about combatting the violence against women. As a student, I am often critical of the lack of opportunities at TTS that allow for its students to grapple with different forms, styles, and content. The Rover is an ambitious answer to this concern. The Grappler is concerned that the decision to have period costuming have been made prior to conversations with a design team.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Watts 3)

Based on the best-selling novel by Mark-Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time puts the story of a young boy on the autism-spectrum front and center. No one speaks for him as he navigates the city of London, uncovering the mystery of the titular dog, Wellington. Ensemble work and movement work are crucial to this play. They watch from the sides of the stage, forming train stations and neighborhoods, bringing the colorful world of London to life. I am excited to see how the design team will dissect the script. The Grappler hopes that the representation of individuals on the autism-spectrum exists both in the narrative of the play and in the rehearsal room. This play is a treasure chest of possibilities, and hopefully a live Golden Retriever puppy.

A Wrinkle in Time (Playworks 3)

I saw the premiere of Tracy Young’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2014. This nostalgic play, personal to director Jeff Mills, is a terrific ensemble piece. Having seen a production half a decade ago, I specifically remember many design aspects. This is a play that presents a multitude of opportunities for designers to experiment.

New Playwrights Series (Healy 3)

TBD. Let’s hope for another female playwright! Female director too please!

 

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