Monday, March 24, 2014

The EPIC Project at UMKC Theatre


I swear I've had great intentions of blogging, although I think I missed two weeks. Oops!

I intended to post about the Epic Project in the middle of last week, but I got really busy so I'm just getting around to it today. I heard about this project via FB, where it was described like this:

The EPIC PROJECT (working title) is a collaboration between UMKC Theatre and UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Under the direction of Stephanie Roberts and Dr. Paul Rudy, first year graduate actors and designers and the Conservatory's Ensemble Improvisation class embark on a THREE YEAR process of creating an original piece of theatre incorporating elements of live music, puppetry, physical theatre, acrobatics and more!
Inspired by the study of mythology by Joseph Campbell, as well as theatre devisers such as Ariane Mnouchkine - Théâtre du Soleil, Jacques Lecoq, Peter Brook and Complicite the ensemble begins a journey into exploring contemporary and classic tales, weaving an EPIC story of our times.
I was more than a bit intrigued, and so I drug Matt along with me to see what we might see. We ended up arriving a bit early and catching the end of their practice, which was a song about the goddess Aphrodite. It made me even more intrigued about what the evening might bring. Large sheets of paper hung around where the audience sat, showing brainstorms from collaborative sessions.




There was a break as the actors withdrew and more audience members arrived. Then, what began as a cacophonous "warm-up" of musicians and actors eventually melded into a performance piece with the actors' bodies describing the evolutionary path of humanity, which eventually included exclamatory sounds and simple language. It was amazing watching the chaos become a coordinated performance.


Next, two of the professors involved shared some insights, then the actors and musicians broke into 3 groups and disbursed throughout the building. Each team performed some clowning improvisation, and the audience was also broken into groups to tour each one. Then the groups came back together into the main theater space and did a bit of clowning together. This was to demonstrate the early stages of the process they had gone through in creating together.

Then, the costume designers came on stage and dressed the actors in pieces of cloth to make them into different Greek gods, the mythology they'd been focusing on that semester. The actors then began a dance-like performance in which they embodied the gods, one at a time. It was impressive watching the actors transform from clowns into deities, and to see the way they envisioned the influence each god or goddess had on the others. I especially enjoyed that some of the gods were gender-swapped, most impressively, Zeus. The woman who played his part was incredible! I could feel the force of her thunderbolts!



The next part of the performance was an allegorical tale that re-envisioned Aphrodite as "Apple", an innocent girl who played with the waves, and addressed the contemporary issues of rape, victim-blaming and slut-shaming. I was moved to tears.

So it was a great emotional relief to once again hear the silly song about Aphrodite that we had first heard when we entered the theater space. And it felt like coming full-circle in the journey they performers had taken us on.

This was the first semester of work for the Epic Project, and I can't wait to see what they will do in the remaining years they work on this!

Related posts:
Show Review: Spring Awakening
Our Lady of Perpetual Beginnings at the Slap-N-Tickle
Kids in the Hall at the Uptown (Review)

2 comments:

JB said...

You should use whiteboards they are a lot easier and do not require paper. Unless you are trying to cut costs because I know they are not cheap!

May said...

This was a university project that I merely spectated in. I have no control over whether or not they use paper v. white boards.