Any area of innovation comes from the students,” asserts theater director and University professor Kent Stephens.
Recently, the University’s Department of Theater Arts and Dance expanded from a standard and classical theater focus to a broader and more diversified curriculum. Much of the change was due to the number of students finding off-campus outlets for their own work, such as spoken word battles or directing plays at the Bryant Lake Bowl. Toussaint Morrison, an actor studying at the University, said in the Twin Cities there are “many open mics and venues that prioritize the artistic voice.”
“Angels in Shadowland,” at the Illusion Theater, is a collection of solo performances of slam poetry, monologues, puppetry and more, all from University students. This showcase of the fresh new direction of the theater department is directed by Stephens. The solo performances vary in style but they all focus on the art of storytelling.
Alison Forbes recalls her first period and her acceptance of femininity in “A Period Piece.” Monologist Katie Willard offers two very different pieces: The first describes the nauseating work behind temping; the second challenges the audience members to write down on cards what they think of her. Comments in the past have ranged from observations on Willard’s pants to calling her self-indulgent.
Toussaint Morrison and Will Sturdivant explore biracial identity and relationships via slam poetry. Darien Johnson’s “The Ghetto-ization of Darien Johnson” about a geeky kid’s quest for a starter jacket makes the other actors giggle just thinking about it, claiming it’s the “best piece ever!”
Life, love and loss are grasped in Sarah Cromer Ben-Said’s monologue on her fellow workers at the World Trade Center’s restaurant, Windows on the World, just prior to Sept. 11, 2001. The title of the play refers to the shadows the events of Sept. 11 have cast upon all of us.
“Angels in the Shadowland” is cobbled from separate monologues written by different actors. However, they all connect by coping with a universal theme which touches all humans: identity. Every piece is distinct from the rest and set in different scenes and situations. Nonetheless, each actor struggles to find their voice, find their inner strength and connect with others.
“Angels in the Shadowland” plays July 24-27 at the Illusion Theater. Call (612) 339-4944 for information.
Keri Carlson welcomes comments at [email protected]