Friday, May 3, 2019

Family Theater Day (2019)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
(EnTechneVision Inc.)
The temperature spiked twenty degrees, and with it, face-ripping winds, ripping down Euclid Avenue. Because that is spring in Cleveland!

Spring also means the opportunity to check out some incredible, international touring companies share their work at student matinees in the days prior to Family Theater Day, this Saturday May 4 at Playhouse Square.

“Playwriting reached its peak with Shakespeare’s King Lear,” or so says Captain Nemo in the EnTechneVision, Inc. production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea from Canada, a seriously intense production happening in the Ohio Theatre.

The reference to Shakespeare's mad king is echoed in a great storm scene in which the captain rails at the sea and sky with, "Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!"

Utilizing three live performers, puppets, actions figure and some seriously beautiful projections, this is a wild adventure perfectly suited for a third-to-sixth grade audience. The language is dense and the subject matter heady (the first children’s play I have seen to introduce the concept of nihilism) it has a strong message about ecological disaster, and urging humankind to find a balance between technology and nature.

Conversely, another program that questions our dominance over wildlife is Shh! We Have a Plan by the Northern Ireland troupe Cahoots, gently told with light and sound, puppets and pantomime and absolutely no dialogue.

There were several short plays we composed for Guerrilla Theater Company which did not include dialogue, though I have to admit I wasn't very good at it, not when I was twenty-five.

Dance of the Demented includes signs with words on them, and I still felt I needed there to be dialogue at the end. One piece I composed which was entirely choreographed (titled, without irony, The Dance) about the importance of human connection, was misinterpreted to be homophobic.

Torque wrote the best of our wordless scripts, The History of Western Civilization, which you can read more about that play here.

Plays that do not include language must be deceptively sophisticated. You must be understood, and we are acclimated to leaning heavily upon language to make ourselves clear. To tell an entire story, to communicate not only emotions but also plans and ideas, takes great plotting, and planning, and rehearsal and physicality and just, you know, everything that makes up live theater.

Now I want to write an hour-long, dialogue-free children's play.

Playhouse Square presents Family Theater Day this Saturday, May 4, 2019

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