As a student, I'm constantly learning different approaches to every facet of everything. Nowhere is this more true than in theater school, where each acting teacher has their own working method which differs from each director's method and so on. The question becomes not what is the right method but at what point do I know enough to begin to formulate my own ideas and opinions. When does class end and my own personal growth as an artist with my own ideology begin? One could argue that class never does end (which is true), but there is a point where you begin to reject some ideas that clash with your own and formulate what will be your artistic perspective for the rest of your life.
I've recently begun to understand where this boundary lies and have begun to develop my own working method as an actor and director. With this new ideology and artistic vocabulary in place, I am able to view works through a different lens, one of my own creation and unique understanding. I was able to put this lens into effect with the Pasadena Playhouse's new production of Pearl Cleage's Blues for an Alabama Sky, directed by Sheldon Epps.
Epps has created a beautiful production that illuminates the struggles of the African-American community in Depression era Harlem. As an audience member, I couldn't help but notice some incongruencies in the production which tended to draw my attention, but Epps was still able to create a rich world and give weight to the issues that the play presents.
Blues for an Alabama Sky focuses on Angel, a streetwise but out of work lounge singer, and Guy, a flamboyant costume designer who happens to be Angel's cousin. When Angel falls in love with conservative (and homophobic) southern gentleman Leland Cunningham, the relationship between Angel and Guy is tested as well as the limits of one's own beliefs. This play, like many, begins by introducing us to the whirlwind life of Angel and Guy as well as the people they love and the world they've created for themselves. In the words of Dr. Sam Thomas, Angel's physician, "let the good times roll!" In this production, the beginning forces a comedic tone to the piece which means that when the real meat of the situation presents itself, the audience is howling with laughter at the over-the-top reactions of Guy and Angel, and I had a difficult time digesting the issues of homophobia, abortion, physical abuse, and destitution as they're presented in full force.
With every production I see, I am able to take something from it that I can apply to my own work and I think this production came at a perfect time as I'm trying to distinguish my own directorial sensibilities from those around me. Heavy issues that are presented in works such as this one do require sensitivity in the approach and can be served by a healthy dichotomy of comedy in the exposition and rising action. If this is controlled with too heavy a hand, however, the audience is left stuck at the top without a fall through the climax to the conclusion. This suspension in comedy makes the otherwise powerful ending weak and unsubstantial.
Zach's Tips • Valet parking in front of the theater is incredibly convenient. • Students (with a valid student ID) can purchase discount tickets to all performances ($15 for plays/$20 for musicals), subject to availability. Tickets may be purchased at the Box Office up to one hour prior to the performance.
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