THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre, From Issue 888 By: Robert E Martin
21st November, 2019 0
Instead of serving up traditional fare this holiday season, true to the zeitgeist of Pit & Balcony Community Theatre, the company will be presenting the Regional Premier of The Giver - a unique and engaging stage adaptation by Eric Coble of Lois Lowry’s Newbery-Award winning book about a seemingly utopian world where everything is kept under tight control and safety reigns supreme.
With performances scheduled for two consecutive weekends from November 29 - December 1 and December 6-8th, in the world of The Giver there is neither pain nor joy. People are assigned their roles in society according to their talents, and men and women are assigned to each according to how well they balance.
Each family is allowed one boy and one girl; and once children turn twelve years old, they are assigned their roles in society. When the principal character, Jonas turns twelve, he is assigned the special role of Receiver of Memories and goes to work with The Giver, who keeps the memories of the world as it used to exist - memories of violence and fear, but also of joy and love.
The position as Receiver of Memories is an important one, as there may be times where one must draw upon the wisdom gained from history to aid the community's decision making. Jonas struggles with concepts of all the new emotions and things introduced to him: whether they are inherently good, evil, or in between, and whether it is even possible to have one without the other. The Community lacks any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.
Within this 1993 American young-adult dystopian novel that was created by Lowry, as the narrative unwinds we see how in reality this seeming safe utopian world is a dystopian nightmare - by converting to ‘Sameness’, while society has eradicated pain and strife it has also eradicated emotional depth from the lives of all those who populate it.
The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide as of 2014. It is also frequently challenged and ranked number 11 on the American Library Association list of the most challenged books of the 1990s. A 2012 survey based in the U.S. designated it the fourth-best children's novel of all time. In 2014, a film adaptation was released, starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Brenton Thwaites. The novel forms a loose quartet[ with three other books set in the same future era, known as The Giver Quartet: Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012).
For director Angie Noah, how is she approaching the numerous challenges involved with staging this ‘Brave New World’ of dystopian splendor contained within this regional premier?
“The idea of the circle has been a powerful symbol for me,” she states. “As a teenager I was a nerd in math class and geometry was the only match class I thrived and felt comfortable in. I remember when studying circles the teacher saying the circle reminds us of perfection, unity, and equality because no one person stands out if standing in a circle because all have equal value. But she also pointed out that no matter how hard we try, we cannot create a perfect circle by hand when we attempt to draw it - so for me, that was the jumping off point for visualizing the staging of this production.”
“With The Giver we have this society of people whose ultimate goal is to eliminate pain and make the world a better place by getting hurt or making the wrong choices, so their intentions are good; but no matter how hard they try, it’s impossible for humans to create a perfect circle,” she continues. “As we move through the production Jonas’ memory goes back and starts to see all these things and for the cast the idea is about the truth coming into focus. The core concept moving us along is the exposure of light. If you gaze aimlessly at an object you see these colored circles, but as you click into focus and look at something closer, images start to appear. The truth is always there, but whether we see it or not depends upon how we look.”
With the varied themes and dramatic complexities of The Giver, Noah feels it deeply relevant to much of what’s going on now in our contemporary society. “The idea of the truth coming into focus is pivotal for me,” she continues. “The truth is revealed in a myriad of things going on around us so our choice is whether to perceive or engage with them. This utopian community created this world but put blinders on everybody so they don’t have to deal with the bad things; but humans are fallible so things get messy. People often equivocate when given choices because what if they make what the wrong choice, or what if they choose the wrong mate in life, or what if they choose the wrong job? It could be disastrous, so a lot of this play is also about how choice is so important and how we live with those choices that we make.”
“For me a central theme with The Giver is the idea that as humans one our responsibilities is to constantly seek the truth - to take care of those around as and seek justice for those around us. If someone does not have a voice and can’t speak for themselves, then we speak for them. We cherish and don’t take for granted the little things.”
This will be Angie Noah’s first production that she’s directed for Pit & Balcony and she’s is thoroughly excited about the cast she has to work with. Angie moved back to the area and was in Pit’s production of It Shoulda’ Been You last season and has been involved with theatre since the age of six. She involved herself heavily in theatre during her middle-school years and says she’s never looked back, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Performance and her Masters degree in American Theatre.
“I’m very excited about the cast because when we first came together for the read-though there was this incredible electric energy that seemed to form between everybody,” she enthuses. “I have Nick Pellegrino IV playing Jonas. Nick is a 19-year old playing the role of a 12-year old, which was a tough casting decision but the right one because Jonas finds himself in so many complex situations. I needed someone solid because there is a certain maturity about Jonas and he finds himself in situations that normal 12-year-olds wouldn’t necessarily be in. Nick is a CMU student and is in every scene, so is a big pivot in our circle. He’s been a fantastic leader and has a strong rapport with all the cast. Nick brings a lovely energy to Jonas and is thoughtful and observant; not a grand-stander. He has to blend and stand back to let the world happen around him, but still has to be focused about his own feelings and experiences. It’s a wonderful blend and he’s doing a very good job in the role.”
The rest of the cast consists of Kevin Proffit as The Giver, Mary Kolleth as Fiona; Nicklaus Sturm as Asher; Spencer Beyerlein as the Father; Tina Beauvais as the Mother; Karleigh Anderson as Lily; Dee Throop as the Chief Elder; Sandra Cline as Larissa; and Amirah Isa as Rosemary.
“The Father in the world of The Giver is assigned that of being a pediatric nurse and the mother is assigned a legal role and in this world nobody knows who their real parents are and they don’t have grandparents, so it’s much like a cast system defined by age where the young are separated from the old and this makes you think and question what are the things we find exclusive or extraneous in our society and what is important,” adds Angie.
“This production really challenges us because we never are given a complete answer about what happens to Jonas: did he make it back to his home, did he find a new community; did he die? This is the author’s intention because within this community where choice has been taken away from them, the crucial moment at the end is where Jonas has to make a choice. If he leaves the community changes, the memories escape him and people are forced to remember; so he has to leave, but at the end we don’t know if that is a good or a bad choice. The point being that you have to choose and act on your decision and you won’t know if it is the right or wrong one until you make that choice.”
“I think one of our biggest draws with this production is going to be nostalgia,” concludes Angie, “because this was a very important book to my generation when I was a kid and I also love the idea of sharing this story with people who haven’t read it. It’s inspiring and gives us hope. As a Director, I’ve had to make a choice about how the play ends and still need to stage it in a way that leaves the question open, so that even if he died he did so for a good reason and his sacrifice saved his community.”
“It’s an empowering and complex production and we have lots of technical surprises that are going to be fun to work with. While its considered theatre for young audiences The Giver is not a kids play but more like The Wizard of Oz, theatre for all ages. It’s important for kids of the next generation to know how to think and I feel audiences need to be involved in that.”
“This is a safe way for people to connect to big issues and big questions and the perfect time of the year for doing this.”
The regional premier of ‘The Giver’ will run from Nov. 29 - Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-8th at Pit & Balcony Theatre. Performance times are 7:30 pm and Fridays & Saturdays and Sunday matinees are at 3:00 PM. Tickets start at $20.00 and can be obtained by phoning 989.754.6587 or visiting PitandBalconyTheatre.com
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)