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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 6, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 32
Polaroid Stories builds the future of Seattle theatre
Arts & Entertainment
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Polaroid Stories builds the future of Seattle theatre

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Polaroid Stories
Balagan Theatre
Through August 8


Polaroid Stories is Greek myths, teen style. Mix together hip-hop, street slang, some Sam Shepard-like poetry, lots of quick scenes with little explanation, actual teens playing roles written for teens, and you get Young Americans' Theatre Company presenting Naomi Iisuka's Polaroid Stories at the Balagan Theatre. If you're at all worried about theater audiences getting older, just attend one of these performances to hear the raucous and approving young voices ready to support theater by their own kind.

The current production is a kind of hip-hop retelling of several Greek myths that are intertwined to create family relationships. While the language is challenging if you don't want to hear teens swear, with a lot of "fucks" and "bitches" and "ain't no way," the basic theme is relationship and struggling with finding who you want to become, both alone and inside a relationship. Director Emma Kelley writes, "The weight this piece holds is found & in its genuine acceptance of the voids young people encounter." While it's not straightforward storytelling, there is a beginning, middle and end, so the message implies that the characters move through their angst to find some measure of self-understanding. And, of course, there are a few deaths, as any good Greek myth demands.

The ensemble of actors range from about 15 to 21, and most have been acting and in acting programs for much of their young lives. Many of the older ones are going to colleges in the fall where they will continue their theater educations. It might be that immediacy of the relationship is more obvious and more readily understandable to young persons than older. The cast all work well together and seem to have equal weight and abilities. A true ensemble. The ensemble is Ron Nelson, Sam Tilles, Emma Sinai-Yunker, Elias Higham, Maddie Daviss, Meme Garcia, Simone Gabriel-Sherief, Josh James, and Lester Jacobson.

Several weeks ago, YATC also presented an evening of four one-acts they called Past Curfew. All four plays were excellent in their presentation of teens and their issues. Mpls., St. Paul by Julia Jordan starred Erin Bednarz and Tommy Fleming and focused on two young men and the band they are obsessed with, as many young people tend to get obsessed with some popular focus to excite them and generate dreams about.

Dancing on Checker's Grave by Eric Lane had teens Maddie Daviss and Gillian Friedman sitting on a gravesite fantasizing about doing crazy things, but not really moving. Their whole journey and their deepening friendship takes place by mentally exploring and making up new, fun activities, breaking the rules, and being somewhere and someone else.

Shades by Mark Harvey Levine was notable in that the teen actors - Trevor Atwood, Claire Corddry, and Augie Urschel - had to play characters that age into older adults, so they had to imagine themselves older. The story is told over and over again in six scenes, where the audience gets to find out who these people are and what their relationships are by getting clues in each scene.

A Body of Water by Neena Beber showed Zoey Belyea and Tallis Moore as best friends who feel deeply for each other but are unsure of whether to make their relationship more romantic. They are both poised to move on to new horizons and new adventures and don't know if their relationship will succeed through those changes. It was particularly nice that they were clearly not having sex, since that took a particular pressure off the table.

These are talented young people working hard to make a success of an independent theater company. They're worth your time and attention, especially if you think supporting younger artists will help build the future of theater in this town. For more information, go to www.youngamericanstheatreco.org or www.brownpapertickets.com, or call 800-838-3006.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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