[On Sundays, this blog looks beyond jobs, resumes, and interviews in “Sabbath.”]
Let’s Play Two
Ernie Banks loved baseball so much that he’d say, “Let’s play two.” This week I had the pleasure of enjoying two plays at Edgewater’s Raven Theatre. Last night I saw Horton Foote’s A Trip to Bountiful and, earlier in the week, I attended Our America, a program that Raven put on with students from Senn High School.
I knew nothing about A Trip to Bountiful before yesterday’s performance. I knew Horton Foote was a playwright, but had never seen any of his plays. After yesterday, I will make it a point to learn more about this talented artist and attended productions of his plays. The play is set in 1950s Texas, and, on the surface, it is a story of family dynamics. Deeper it is a story about the change in American culture as people moved from the country to the city. Mrs. Watts is the center of the play. She lives with her son and combative daughter-in-law in a cramped apartment located in Houston.
Over the course of the play, we learn that Mrs. Watts has suffered greatly throughout her life. Still, she remains a woman of integrity and values. Her goal in life is simple: To return to the rural city where she was raised, a swampy patch of dirt called Bountiful. The only thing better than Foote’s writing is the way Raven’s actors bring the play to life. As always at Raven, the stage and the way it changes throughout the play complement the acting. This play runs through November 17, and I highly recommend it.
Earlier in the week, I attended Our America: Ghetto Life 101 & Remorse: the 14 Stories of Eric Morse. This performance was based on two NPR radio documentaries in 1993 and 1994. In the first act, two young teen age boys, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, chronicle what it was like growing up in the Ida B. Wells housing project. An energetic, diverse group of 12 students from Senn High School interpreted the boys' experience. While showing the horror and fear of living in a world where people literally get their face shot off, the student actors conveyed the humanity of people who are intelligent and loving despite the challenges of urban poverty.
In the second act, Jones and Newman interviewed neighbors to investigate the death of Eric Morse, a five year old boy who was pushed out a 14th floor window after refusing to steal candy. He was pushed out of the window by two boys age 10 and 11. What was even more shocking in this section of the performance was the breadth of sympathy that Jones, Newman, and the Senn student actor bring to life. I simply remembered this case as a savage murder. Remorse challenges the audience to consider all aspects of the situation, including the punishment given to the killers. The stories told by neighbors and relatives show that morality is not simple and punishment can outweigh the crime. Three cheers to the students of Senn High School and Raven Theater for bringing this story to the stage. The only downside is that the production was only staged for two days. Later in the year, before Christmas, Raven will join with local schools to put on Seedfolks, a play about urban gardening and its significance to the local communities.
Raven Theater is a great example of how local theater can bring life to a community. Since the 1990s, Raven has produced classic and contemporary plays by American playwrights. It also shares its space with smaller theater companies and community groups. It offers programs for children and teens. Community theater helps build a community and keep it strong. Edgewater is very lucky to have Raven Theater.