Before entering the studio theater, all that can be heard is an ensemble of birds whispering a woodland symphony. As you finally enter, leaves fall on your head and you find yourself in forest of television sets and wires.
The theater arts department presented an original and experimental multi-media piece entitled “This is Not a Tree,” co-created by professors Anita Bloom and Melissa R. Randel, as well as the theatre arts (TA) 163/164 workshops.
“This is Not a Tree” tells the story of a network of people, interconnected through family and friends, as they cope with the changing world around them. It sheds light on the text-messaging-MP3-playing world we live in and illustrates how technology creates barriers between us and at the same time, brings us together.
From the moment the audience walks in the studio auditorium, they are immediately pulled into the production and roles change from audience member to participant. Throughout the play, the actors moved around the room, walking through rows of seats, passing out flyers, throwing leaves around and making eye contact – with audience members. This technique drew the audience in, making the experience much more personal and interactive.
This avant-garde production brilliantly fuses distinct concepts together, such as: nature and machinery; order and chaos; life and death; the new and the familiar.
The cast proved to be exceptional actors.
One thing is to play a role of a character we’ve seen time and time again, and another is taking on the challenging role of presenting original characters that have never been introduced to the world of theater before.
The characters portrayed had a sense of familiarity, having seen them in real life: Rob (Jim Niedzialkowski), the computer nerd; Jasmine (Michelle Ferrand), the frustrated girlfriend and actress; Daniel (Taka Yamamoto), the aspiring filmmaker; Ian (John Oliver), the birdwatcher and environmentalist; Josie (Kim Turnbull), the single mother; Mei Mei (Yinghsuan Tsai), the fierce yet adorable video gamer; Delia (Lucia Margarian), the caring sister and daughter; Joe (David McGee) and Margaret (Yvonne Younger), the older and loving couple and the Witness (Jesselynn Desmond), the observant free-spirit.
The set was superbly designed by Professor Guido Girardi and skillfully constructed by the classes of TA 129/131. The costumes, designed by Desmond, were vivid, colorful and innovative and helped complete the characters.
“This is Not a Tree” was a marvelous and ground-breaking production. It took the world we thought we knew, and opened our eyes to see ourselves and the lives we live in a whole new perspective.
My Rating: Four stars out of four.