Pierce Pioneer

Bringing Attention to the Internment of Japanese Americans of World War II through Theatre

Camp Harmony, was one of the acts featured in the production “Finding Home”. It showed an insight into what the Japanese Americans experienced in the American internment camps in 1942. Thoughts and feelings of fear, anxiety, vulnerability, and uncertainty are given faces on the stage.

We follow the Sugimura family as they are affected by the fear and hate from World War II that caused them to be confined. The author, Mailina Tuivaiave, had a lot of passion for this piece. “I was excited to flesh it out,” she said.

“Camp Harmony”, the internment camp were the story is located was in Puyallup, where the current Washington State fair is held. Back then, The Puyallup Assembly Center was a temporary facility for the internment of Japanese Americans.

Every time she passes those grounds, that moment in history always comes to her mind. “I first heard of the Japanese Internment Camps in high school. Puyallup is one of my favorite places, it’s always bright and clean, you’d never think something so shaded and dirty happened there,” says Tuivaiave.

Tuivaiave wanted to spread awareness to something that happened so close to home. She describes herself as someone who wonders about history and loves everything about it. Even letting her mind wonder about the history of roads, buildings, books and people. Writing Camp Harmony was her way of “saying I remember… its remembrance and respect for the past.”

Her perspective of the two children Kiyoko and Akane was intentional for the audience. “I want to inform, to remember and encourage people to lend more credence to children,” she said.

A child’s perspective is the most innocent and raw than any other. Their input could be the most important thing in a situation. “Consider the children, give them a moment, and take a listen,” she said.

Camp Harmony is a work of art by Mailina Tuivaiave that conveys history and true meaning. “People were uprooted from their homes and forced to live here,” she said.

By bringing light to this part of history, Tuivaiave hoped the audience would learn from what has happened in the past and use that lesson towards a better future. “There was no other option. Japanese Internment in America. This was it,” she said.

Playwright uses “End Term of Service” to find her way home

Justn Ngo/Staff Photo
Author Jacqueline Laverne, a Pierce College student, showed a brief window into a brief defining moment in her younger life.

“End Term of Service”  was a piece in the recent final Pierce College play “Finding Home.” Author Jacqueline Laverne, a Pierce College student, showed a brief window into a brief defining moment in her younger life. Recently widowed and a new mother, the scene showcased the struggle of completely changing one’s lifestyle, routine, and sense of direction.

Laverne served in the military from 1988 to 1993. She understands the pain and stress that is part of a woman’s life because of how the military treated them during this time period. “It’s a very personal piece to me,” Laverne said.

During the early 90s — from which her piece is based on— women in the military were treated as outcasts. While the men were treated as priceless jewels, women were treated like rubble on the ground, she said.

“When people in the government treat you like you are a pariah, and they use the excuse that they’re just trying to do their job, there is no reason to treat each other that way,” she said.

“End Term of Service” showed what she went through during her last day in the military. She was only 22 years old, and the memory of living through that experience at such a young age has haunted her. “It was her getting through the paperwork with her dignity intact and getting home,” Laverne said.

Even though the rough treatment of others can have a major impact on someone’s life, Laverne’s story has a positive message. People will treat others the way they want, no matter what the circumstance is, but the way that treatment is taken in is what really matters. “We can’t let the pain and suffering define who you are,” she said.

”Finding home” is the key message in Laverne’s piece. It is important that everyone finds a place in this world, “No matter what your place is in the world is, you need to find it….find your home,” she said.

Writing the piece brought up many emotions, she said, as she thought about the treatment of women in the military back then and now. “I cried the entire time I wrote it…remembering it, because it was quite painful,” she said.

Going through trials and hardships, it can be hard to find pieces of home, but Laverne has hope. “If you have a goal you need to follow through with it, and it will help you find your place,” she said.

Aurdrey II takes over stage at Lakewood Playhouse

“Feed me Seymour!

Carl Caralas/ Staff Photos
Actors left to right, Niclas olson (Seymour), Joelle Craft (Chiffon), and Brittany Griffins (Ronnette). Ronnette sings to Seymour in surprise that his wired flower is helping make his dreams come true in becoming more well known. The song is “Ya Never Know”.

There is a most unique plant currently growing in Mr. Mushnik’s (Tim McFarlan) flower shop on Skid Row. The plant, named “Audrey II” by florist nerd Seymour Krelborn (Niclas Olson), needs a special type of nourishment so she can “grow up big and strong”. However, the food she wants is not Miracle Grow and you won’t find it at your local Costco or Fred Meyer.

Feeding Audrey II is going to be a major problem facing Seymour in the horror-comedy musical “Little Shop of Horrors”. The 1982 Off-Broadway musical was created by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman. The dark-humored play is based on the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same name. as well as a popular 1986 film adaptation of “Little Shop of Horrors” directed by Frank Oz.

The play is directed by Tacoma Little Theatre’s Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface. He confirmed that his production is based on the 1982 Off-Broadway play and not on the 1986 Frank Oz film. This means that Seymour and Audrey, (Jennifer Redston) the girl he has a crush on, will possibly be in mortal danger from Audrey II once they learn that the plant is a Mean Green Mother from Outer Space.

“Little Shop Of Horrors” is a story about a young man who works at a flower shop on Skid Row. Seymour Krelborn acquires a plant he names Audrey II after Audrey, the girl he is in love with. Unfortunately, Audrey has a boyfriend, a sadistic dentist named Orin Scrivello (William Johnson). Seymour’s boss Mr. Mushnik is about to fire him for his incompetence when Audrey II arrives from outer space. The plant saves Mr. Mushnik’s business from going belly up. However, the situation becomes complicated when Seymour learns that Audrey II feeds on blood.

Will John (Orin) sings his song “Dentist!” as pours his heart out of how he loves his job as a dentist. Inflicting pain on others and inhaling his laughing gas.

Director Chris Surface chose a fine cast of actors to star in his production. They were perfect in their execution of the “Greek Chorus” of Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal. The sound was amazing due in part to the use of a live orchestra behind the stage. The sounds of the instruments and the actors’ singing made me feel like I was living “down in Skid Row”.

Actors Left to right Antoniette Nicole Bridges (Crystal), Jennifer Redston (Audrey) (front), Brittany Griffins (Ronnette) (Behind), Joelle Craft (Chiffon). Audrey sings her poor heart to Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon about how she wants to live a beautiful family life with Seymour. The song is called “Somewhere that’s Green”.

The revolving set was a feast for the eyes. A lot of time and ingenuity was put into creating Mr. Mushnik’s flower shop. Even the flower pots that Seymour kept breaking, much to Mushnik’s chagrin, had detail.

The growth of Audrey II takes place in three stages. She starts out as a cute little plant held in Seymour’s arms. It does not take long before the puppet is trying to bite people (including some of the members of the audience). Soon she is as tall as Seymour and starts to speak and sing. Eric Clausell brilliantly mimics Levi Stubbs who did the voice of Audrey II in the Frank Oz film. I actually felt vulnerable in a comic sort of way when the plant grew so tall she toured over the actors. I certainly had reason to be tense when one by one the actors ended up as hord’oeuvres for Audrey. The puppeteers animated that plant so well it was scary.

The actors had a mesmerizing way as they became the characters that they were playing. Niclas Olsen was a delightfully naïve Seymour who allows himself to be manipulated by Audrey II into bringing her food (FEED ME!). Jennifer Redston was extraordinary in her ability to replicate Ellen Greene’s Audrey from the 1986 film including Audrey’s signature squeaky voice. Will Johnson is hilarious as Orin, Audrey’s fiendish dentist boyfriend who has an unfortunate addiction to nitrous oxide. It is difficult for anyone not to laugh when Orin meets his demise stumbling around the stage wearing a space helmet “filled” with laughing gas. The story’s exposition, set to music, is provided by Crystal (Antoinette Nicole Bridges) Chiffon (Joelle Craft) and Ronnette (Brittany Griffins) a singing ladies group from the 1960s, sporting beehive hairstyles.

All of the hard work that Chris Serface and his entourage have put into creating “Little Shop of Horrors” was worth it. This production should satisfy anybody who loves musicals and has a macabre sense of humor. I would encourage anybody who and black humor to come to the Lakewood Playhouse and see this play.

Ticket prices are available at https://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/

Senior 60+/Military                $28.00

Educator/student                    $25.00

Adult                                       $30.00

“Finding Home” spotlights what having a home means

The final play for the Black Box Theater at Pierce College for 2018 was a sold-out show.  “Finding Home” was performed from May 31 – June 2 and focuses on humans longing for home.

The play shows our universal search for a physical and emotional place in the world with various locations, timelines, and themes said director Patrick Daugherty and co-creator Denise Hartley.

When searching for a cast Daugherty stated that he was looking for, “students, faculty, staff, administrators, and members of the community who were passionate about being part of these works in progress”.

Khuong “Finn” Quoc Ho, a cast member who goes by Finn, when asked way he decided to join the play stated, “I joined the play because I wanted to have a chance to learn more about what I’ve already been learning which is theatre”. Finn plays multiple characters, a brother and a gremlin.

When asked if he related to any of his characters or other characters, he responded, “Um, yeah well, especially since I’m an international student myself. I wouldn’t say necessarily my characters but other characters”. Also, when asked what attracted him and made him ultimately choose the play he commented, “Patrick Daugherty. I heard his reputation around here and how well he puts on amazing productions.

Cast mate Aubrey Bingham, plays a crying baby and a widow’s daughter. She wanted the audience to think about what having a home means. “I hope they get a sense of where their home is and that they enjoyed the play and that they don’t get annoyed by my crying”.

Director Patrick Daugherty said, “Pierce College is a crossroads for talented artists, writers, musicians, singers, and actors. The cast and crews are always new, fresh, and different. The shows are here and gone in the blink of an eye, and each experience is ephemeral”.

 

Love and Disability play out on Lakewood stage

“The Glass Menagerie” opened Feb. 16 at the Lakewood Playhouse. This iconic production reflects the personal life of the playwright Tennessee Williams.

The Glass Menagerie has been playing for audiences since the play’s first production in 1944. Since then there have been two Hollywood adaptations of the play. The first movie came out in 1950 and the second in 1987 (directed by Paul Newman and starring his wife Joanne Woodward as Amanda). Unfortunately, both films failed to capture the essence of the play and failed at the box office.

The Lakewood Playhouse production of “The Glass Menagerie” directed by Micheal O’Hara is a stunning adaptation that will touch your heart and leave you feeling compassion for the actors in the play.

The setting is in the Wingfield apartment in  St. Louis in 1937. A sofa, dining room table, and a cabinet for Laura’s glass animals provide the backdrop for the unfolding drama. The production also makes clever use of a candelabrum with three lit candles for the scene where the electricity is turned off in the Wingfield apartment. The whole theater was dark except for the three candles.

The play uses four characters to tell the story.

Tom Wingfield, played by Niclas Olson, is a narcissistic factory worker who has little compassion for his family. Instead of spending nights with his family he keeps “going to the movies.”

Amanda Wingfield, played by Dayna Childs (with a convincing Texas accent) is a faded Southern belle who longs for the days long ago when she was a debutante attending parties and balls.

Jess Weaver makes a stunning acting debut as Laura Wingfield, Amanda’s daughter, and Nick Fitzgerald brings talent and charm to his role as Jim O’Conner, a friend and “gentleman caller” who comes over for a visit to the Wingfield apartment.

The plot of Williams’ play involves Amanda’s efforts to find a husband for her daughter Laura, an extremely shy young woman who has retreated into an almost autistic-like existence polishing her collection of glass animals all day. The source of Laura’s mental fragility is her physical condition – she is crippled. The play explains her affliction as having one leg shorter than the other. The implication is that Laura has polio, since they talk about her having to wear a brace.

Amanda is convinced that Laura must have a man to provide for her since Laura is unwilling to go to school and find a career. Amanda insists that Tom should go to the factory and find a “gentleman caller” for Laura. Tom obliges by bringing home an Irishman named Jim O’Conner with whom he is best friends with in the factory.

In a most ironic twist of fate, Jim turns out to be the one boy Laura had a crush on in high school. When watching the interaction between the two actors playing Jim and Laura, one gets the strong impression that they belonged together. Jim is kind and sensitive to Laura. He tries to help her see what a beautiful person she is despite having a disability. The affection displayed by Fitzgerald toward Weaver appears so authentic that the heartbreak when Laura learns that Jim is engaged to another woman it hits the audience like a ton of bricks. There is no happy ending in “The Glass Menagerie.”

Williams’ play is a commentary on the fact that sometimes life can be harsh to the most vulnerable people in this world. “The Glass Menagerie” is much like a Greek tragedy in that it makes you feel compassion for the players even after the play is over.

The show will run until March 11. Show times are Fridays and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be a special showing Thursday, March 1 at 8 p.m. – an actor’s benefit night, with admission price as a “Pay what you can” with a $5 minimum. More information regarding ticket prices and location can be found at lakewoodplayhouse.org.

 

Pierce College presents Standing Rock

a play taking a closure look into this current event

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As protests go, the one that took place at Standing Rock, North Dakota, was perhaps the longest in U.S. history. It lasted from July 27, 2016 until February 23, 2017, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), North Dakota law enforcement, and the National Guard came to enforce an eviction order issued by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

From the first meeting with Dakota Access the Lakota and other local tribes raised questions and stated their objections, fully expecting to be given due process, allowing their questions to be answered before construction began.

Dakota Access and Energy Partners had a mission, and driving that mission was a promise to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. The answer to that promise lay in the Brakken oil fields that lay partially in North Dakota.

Late spring of 2016 the talks hit a dead end. The Lakota tribal leaders filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking a temporary injunction against the pipeline. Battle lines were drawn at Standing Rock between the Lakota and DAPL.

The protest struck a cord with Patrick Daugherty, the speech and drama professor here at the college. He said, “I felt strongly that it is a story that needs to be told.”

Sometime around the middle of February he met with two other professors who also shared the same vision.

The reasons Marion Morford, an adjunct professor for arts and humanities, partnered with Daugherty are lengthy. But then so are his ties to North Dakota. Morford had worked with the Native American people and become familiar and their values and customs.

Morford watched the events unfold and saw that there was more to the story than just a bunch of tribal people unhappy about an oil pipeline. He said, “One thing that is important to note is that Native people are accepting of change. It is part of life. So the fact that there are so many representatives from all of these tribes, the Navajo, the Hopi, the Crow, from all over, standing up, says a lot. They aren’t saying much about defending their rights. They look at it that they are defending the earth. These native people were thinking ahead about the future, their legacy and how their children and grandchildren will look back at their stewardship of the land, and the protectors of the water.”

As the protest was drawing to a close, Morford still had questions. With a confused look on his face he asked, “The (North Dakota) governor was pointing out that the water protectors was leaving this mess of pollution…as they were being arrested and hounded out. I felt that it was an unfair portrayal of the people and their options. I find it interesting that this whole issue is…this is tribal land and the pipeline goes under or through several water tables, affects the lake and the river. There is a long history of leaks and pipeline explosions that happen in North Dakota that never get reported in the news, about 200 in the last year alone. When you think about a pipeline leaking or breaking under a river how do you fix it?”

 An English professor, Heather Frankland also wanted a part in the creation of the play. During the winter quarter she gave her creative class an assignment to write a small one-act play. These plays would be tied together to tell the story of Standing Rock from the protectors’ point of view.

For Frankland, her motive was simply to teach the students the influence they CAN have. She said, “This play will empower the students as they work to bring a story to life. It is important the people understand that writing gives people a voice, to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Aiyana Parham, a running start student, was one of those students who was in Frankland’s class. She said, “It was a peaceful protest. The native people who actually lived there weren’t the ones who were starting the fights; it was the people who were coming in to support. I think they just didn’t understand. I think that was a big issue, how everything got labeled. Even the native people kept trying to say they aren’t with us. That was the most frustrating thing to me. I didn’t know that much about it until I was given the assignment for the script in my creative writing class. I barely heard anything about it.”

When the rehearsals were starting Parham came with the intent to just watch. She said, “But then I wanted to be a part of it, to portray what others created, to share the message through my performance, the message that what we were doing was wrong. We signed a treaty, then took the land back. That’s not right. When I say “them,” I mean the Lakota and when I say “we,” I mean the people who are abusing their power. I am not one of them, so I feel it is my responsibility to speak for them, too.”

The play is deeply personal for Nate Dicarlo, a digital design student here. He is an army veteran and watched with great interest as military veterans began showing up at Standing Rock. Their motivation resonated with him. He said, “I’m doing Standing Rock for one, experience, and for two, I support the cause of the Standing Rock protest. I don’t believe, as a student and as a military vet, that oil is going to make this country better. “

His voice became a little more forceful as he continued, “On top of that, the police presence up there is too militarized. I disagree with that. It should have been handled better. The way they did it was idiotic. In the military, we do not respond like that at all. We do not respond with attack dogs. We do not attack people unprovoked. What they did, they did unprovoked. There were some instances where protestors who should not have been there were throwing things, but even THEN? you do not attack them.”

The play incorporates stories told through video clips taken from people who were there with people on stage acting out the events that took place. A legend was told of a black snake that will bring great harm to the people. It became a key part of the Lakota protest and will be making a cameo appearance on stage.

The cast all have echoed the same line, " My heart goes out to the Lakota people. We violated the treaty. We violated their land and their sacred vows. “

The protest at Standing Rock was an event that will have lasting ripples. For three nights, the Lakota people will be given a voice. That is all they ever wanted, was to be heard.

‘Sweeney Todd’ takes bloody revenge in upcoming play

This infamous story follows psychotic barber’s killing spree in 19th-century London

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Kara Wolff/Courtesy Photo

Kara Wolff/Courtesy Photo

From its initial publication in 1846, “Sweeney Todd” has gone through many stages, including an upcoming appearance on the Pierce College stage.

“Sweeney Todd” is a dark legend, filled with emotion, suspense, and frightfully powerful musical numbers. 

Set in 1846 London, Todd returns from a 15-year prison sentence with a vendetta for the judge who wrongly prosecuted him and tore him away from his wife and baby.

The hunt begins with Todd setting himself up in his old barber shop and getting to work plotting his bloody revenge.

The story of the murderous barber has controversial origins, including theories the play draws inspiration from a real serial killer in the early 1800s. None of the theories have been proven, but author Peter Haining’s search for proof of the original Todd’s existence resulted in multiple books on the subject.

The tale of Todd started in a penny dreadful, illustrated stories in cheap booklets for the Victorian public, and was written in 12 parts by Edward Lloyd.

“The psychopathic barber’s story proved instantly popular: it was turned into a play before the ending had even been revealed in print,” said Victorian historian LM Jackson. 

The play had become well-known throughout England by the 1860s, lasting more than 100 years until hitting mainstream masses of American Broadway in 1979.

Charles Wolff plays the bloody barber Todd and Jazmine Herrington plays Mrs. Lovett, the broke baker. 

Richard Buckley, who has worked in theaters on Orcas Island, Western Washington University and other schools, directs the musical. He has 24 years of directorial experience, with productions such as “The Sound of Music” and “Godspell.” When he was offered the chance to direct “Sweeney Todd” he said he “jumped at the chance,” because “the story is well-crafted and amazing.”

The Pierce College rendition of “Sweeney Todd” is Friday and Saturday, and March 3-4 at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater on the third floor of the Cascade Building. Tickets are free for Pierce students and $5 general admission.

Avenue Q Review

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Avenue Q can be considered a cross between South Park and Sesame Street. The play follows a guy named Princeton and what he does after graduating college as he tries to find purpose in life. This is a great play to see for those who are in college or just graduated college. This is not a family friendly play. The songs have an adult theme to them which makes them ten times more funny.

The crowd died after every scene and every song. There were songs ranging from racism to homophobia with a positive view on the matter. The songs are catchy and can get into people’s heads soon after the play is over. The adult theme really worked well with play's story making it relatable to the audience with a humorous tone. The story is great, the plot was easy to follow and it all ties in at the end.

The actors were amazing not only did they do the voices of the puppets, but they also did the puppeteering. Actors also did multiple puppet movements and voices which was quite impressive. It was amazing to see an actor go back and forth between characters in one scene. The set, all though small, was used in a way that it seemed to be bigger than it really was. It was impressive to see how much they could do with the small set they had. They went from the small street of Avenue Q to the empire state building to all sorts of places. The props and puppets were of high quality.

They had nicely made props that really set the environment or scene they were in. The puppets seemed as if they were taken off of the set of Sesame street itself. The puppeteering was very professional they did a variety of emotions and interacted with props. If a mistake were to happen onstage the actors would stay in character making it all seem scripted. The acting between the human characters and the puppets were top, they really made it seem as if the puppets were real. The way they interacted with the puppets really sold it as if the puppets were human too and a thought of their own.

Some of the cast were seasoned actors while others this was their first play at the playhouse or first non educational play and they seemed as if they're were acting professionally for years. The humor in play was hilarious, a joke in particular that got the whole crowed laughing was a light hearted joke towards Donald Trump.

There was a scene where two roommates having an argument about being gay and how it's okay, as they argue they broke out into song and dance. Throughout the whole play you'll be laughing and smiling at funny lyrics of the songs or the situation the characters find themselves in. If you're interested in good production plays you should go check out the Lakewood Playhouse as for Avenue Q ten out of ten would see again.    

 

Tacoma Little Theatre’s ‘The Last Night of Ballyhoo’ Shows Jewish Family’s Loss of Identity

Play explores when an old-fashioned newcomer challenges this assimilated family’s new traditions on the eve of war.

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Tacoma Little Theatre/ Courtesy Photo

Photo caption: Sunny (Jill Heinecke) takes a liking to Joe (Kelly Mackay), who is still trying to get to know Sunny better.

Sunny (Jill Heinecke) takes a liking to Joe (Kelly Mackay), who is still trying to get to know Sunny better.

Sunny (Jill Heinecke) listens to her uncle Adolph (Russ Holm) reminisce his lost love

Joe (Kelly Mackay) patiently listens to the daydreaming Lala (Katelyn Hoffman) talk

Adolph (Russ Holm) and Boo (Stacie Hart) contemplate where their lives have gone to lead them to where they are now.

Following the tale of a German-Jewish family living in Atlanta Georgia, the play handles simultaneously the prejudices and progressiveness between American Jews in 1939, just before the U.S. joins World War 2.

The play starts with Lala Levy (Katelyn Hoffman) decorating a Christmas tree in the living room of the Jewish family’s household. The Freitag and Levy family grew up around closed off anti-semites and segregational Jews, which is one of the main themes of the play.

Lala and the rest of the family’s lives become even more complicated with the arrival of Adolph Freitag (Russ Holm)’s newest employee, Joe Farkas (Kelly Mackay), as well as the arrival of Lala’s more successful cousin, Sunny Freitag (Jill Heinecke).

Lala is somewhat childish, a constant dreamer, and prefers to remain within the house out of fear of everyone else outside. Meanwhile her mother, Boo Levy (Stacie Hart), is a stubborn but loving mother who wants her daughter to be successful, but can’t seem to pull her out of her shell. Boo also seems to follow the prejudicial thoughts shared with many others within their city.

When Adolph comes home from work with a new employee, Joe, a spiffy young Jewish man from New York, Joe becomes somewhat of a vessel for the audience as he is new in town and is unaware of the separation of the Jewish community nor people’s treatment of each other based upon that.

When Joe reveals himself to be a Eastern European Jew, Boo treats him with disdain, using his recoiling response towards Lala’s suddenly intrusive personality, as an excuse to talk ill of him.

The Jews in the Atlanta community seperate each other between German and Eastern European Jews, which is often either characterized through Boo’s attitude toward Joe or the community’s country club that run the Ballyhoo event.

With this in mind, the audience sees somewhat through Joe’s eyes what it is like to suddenly learn about a such a shocking problem within his own people.

pushing past prejudices emplaced by the overall community

Reba Freitag (Kim Holm) is another oblivious character, with a bubbly personality who also seems unconcerned with the importance of her Jewish heritage, a common theme amongst most of the characters. This trait is somewhat shared with Sunny, who is more open-minded and aware of who she is, but still doesn’t grasp its importance nearly as much as her intellectual equal, Joe.

The performances are quite entertaining, Russ Holm’s character Adolph is a lazy and snarky joker, who delivers most of the punch lines and humorous remarks. Russ Holm delivers as well, with well timed and acted jokes that can leave the audience dying of laughter.

Hoffman does a good job as Lala in emoting and showing this character’s conflict and fears. Heinecke also portrays her character, Sunny’s inner conflict very well, as the story shows this character’s sudden realization that not everything has to be the way it is, with the help of Joe.

Mackay does a good job in bringing to life Joe’s character and both his straight to the point personality and his somewhat “fish out of water” reactions to the ideals of this new community.

Stacie Hart and Kim Holm do well in playing Boo and Reba, respectively. The sister-in-law characters have some fun dialogue between them, and show different sides and results of the assimilated Jewish family.

With the story’s message about assimilation, the story does offer some good reasoning and motivation as to why the characters talk about what they believe in.

The conflicts and interactions Sunny faces between the other characters is always interesting, with each discussion offering a different view from the same problem.

With Sunny’s character being both progressive but also somewhat trapped in her family’s beliefs, her and Joe’s clashing of ideals offers some great moral lessons and revelations. Lala and Sunny also clash, with Lala being jealous of Sunny’s “non-Jew” features, whereas Lala sees herself as completely physically Jewish. Sunny is shocked by this statement, and never appears full of herself, merely surprised that her cousin thinks that way.

The Tacoma Little Theatre’s portrayal “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” is a good production and representation of the story. The humor is great and the characters are interesting and each have an important view on the difficult subject of cultural identity.

The story itself does bring up some interesting questions and views from a time period so complicated and with a culture so torn, the story never feels dull.

Disgraced

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Liz Lauren/Courtesy Photo

Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily) and Behzad Dabu (Abe) in Disgraced

It was a rainy Thursday morning on January 28, 2016. At least 30 Pierce College students gathered in front of the Health Education Center as they waited to board the bus to the Bagley Right Theater. Despite the weather, the students couldn’t contain their excitement as they discussed what was to come from the play, Disgraced. Some students discussed about how this would be a great opportunity to learn more about the Islamic faith, while others were excited to just watch a play. Whatever the reason, the weather didn’t rain on their parade.

The theater was already full with other colleges and high schools as the Pierce College students found their seats in the back row. The room was full of enthusiasm from not only the Pierce College students, but the other schools as well. Most of the high schoolers pulled out their phones to take selfies, while the college students turned towards someone next to them and had a conversation about what to expect in the play. The level of maturity was evident in the room.

As the play began, there were a lot of interruptions in the beginning from the audience about the profanity and violence the main characters go through. The play focuses on the lifestyle of a Muslim-American man tries to deny his Islamic faith and culture. As he struggles with his identity, his other colleagues have their own struggles as they all sit around the table discussing their input on not only the Islamic faith; but their own culture as well. The room was full of laughter and gasps as the play went on as the audiences’ eyes stayed glued to the stage.

At the end of the play, the audience had a chance to talk with the actors about the play. Before the discussion began, the crowd was asked a few questions about what they thought of the play. The first question was about how they felt after the play. The majority of the crowd said, “intrigued,” while the other half said, “overwhelmed.” The audience was once again asked whether or not they were able to relate to any of the characters in the play. One student from Renton Prep said that they were able to connect with the main protagonist, Amir because they had, “mixed emotions about who [they] were with split personalities.” Finding out who someone is was the main point of this play.

When the actors came out to discuss the purpose of the play, they said that it had little to do with Islam but more about identity. Bernard White, the actor that played Amir, talks about how this play represents, “the fallout of when you don’t love where you’re from. If you try to cut off a part of yourself, bad things will happen.” Behzad Dabu, the actor that played Abe, Amir’s nephew. He stated that this play focused on intersectionality. “Different parts of our personality that comes together and makes us who we are. This play shows us that all of the things that make us who we are, make us do the things we do,” he stated.  As the actors say, this play will help those who are having trouble identifying themselves if they don’t agree with their culture.

Disgraced, is overall thought-provoking as it gives the audience insight to another man’s life as he is in a constant battle with himself about his culture. The overall experience will tug at your heart as you connect with the characters and see their struggle with accepting who they are. This play shows its audience that no matter where we end up in life, we can’t deny who we are or where we come from. Because if we do, nothing but trouble will come our way.

Death of a Salesman Review

A doomed father’s world crumbles as his past intertwines with his reality

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Death of a Salesman is a play about lost dreams, and false ambitions. The story follows Willy Loman (Joseph Grant), who is a 60-year-old, ever failing salesman whose hallucinations and memories leak into his own reality in his final days.

His mind takes over his life more and more ever since his eldest son, Biff Loman (Tim Samland), a 34-year-old slacker, has been living in their home for the past few weeks. Willy had extraordinarily high expectations for Biff, and  his son hasn’t met a single one of them.

Willy’s wife, Linda Loman (Kathi Aleman), and his youngest son, Happy “Hap” Loman (Gabe Hacker), are always trying to keep up a good mood and positive outlook towards the day for the sake of Willy. As Hap puts it, “He’s always happy when he’s looking forward to something!”

Death of a Salesman is truly a story of a man’s desperate pursuit for the “American Dream,” and how he was always blind to the long gone happiness of his family. On the surface, the story shows how Biff is nearing middle-age, and is still unemployed, it is implied that this was of his own doing, which it, for the most part, is true. But as the tale unfolds, Biff’s failings seem to have also been of his own father’s constant pressure and expectations.

There are no “villains” in Death of a Salesman, only people with contradicting hopes and rationales. Willy’s boss, Howard (Eric Cuestas-Thompson), is visually shown to be a cigar chomping executive, but in truth is very reasonable and has valid cause to do what he does.

The younger memory of Biff, who was a football star, has a nerdy helper named Bernard (Charlie Stevens), which may lead people to think that Biff was a bully to Bernard. Bernard also turns out to have grown up to be a successful businessman, which may also lead some to think that Bernard has now become a backstabbing “suit” towards everyone. But in reality Bernard was the young Biff’s friend, and the grown up Bernard is kind to Willy when he meets him.

The audience had a feeling of pity for Willy as he loses his mind scene by scene. But through this loss, the audience sees how this forlorn salesman isn’t a saint by any means.

Willy’s life has always been worsened by his stubborn and short-fused personality, and his constant reluctance to accept the truth.

The play cleverly transitions from Willy’s real life, to his dream-like delusions. Whatever the lighting is for his reality, the lighting for his memories will contrast it. For example, his dimly lit home is changed to bright greens and beiges when his memories first fill his eyes.

“I’ve been racing the junkyard all my life!” said Willy, and Willy’s reality does comes crashing down more than once on him in both his final days and in his past.

He lashes out at others when he hears voices of his past criticising him, and he tries to put on a persona that he is a well respected salesman who is known throughout many cities, when in truth, Willy barely comes home with any money at all.

The main actor’s performances were particularly spectacular. Grant--a 50 year veteran of theatre--plays Willy, and portrays this mentally ill and stressed father incredibly, showing a great spectrum of emotion as this elderly man jumps from joyfulness to confusion to anger to regret.

Aleman, who plays Willy’s wife Linda, gives a dramatic performance of a wife and mother who is trying to deny the truth of her husband’s mental and emotional state, even as Willy yells and loses his temper at her. Though her near constant state of distraught and crying may feel a little wary after a while, it is all understandable given this wife’s situation.

Samland, who plays Biff, blows the roof off as he plays an emotionally pent-up bum who’s outbursts fill the room with tension, anger, and sadness; all at once.

When Biff breaks down to and because of his father, which is a common occurrence, Samland shows how a son who is cracking down under the disappointment of his father looks like, after a lifetime of being his father’s only light.

Hacker, who plays Hap, also gives great performance as the younger brother whose goals in life are never really clear. Ranging from wanting to hook up with “gals” to wanting to keep peace between his family. He’s always coming up with big plans and dreams to get his brother back on his feet, but neither really go through with any of them based on their own shortcomings.

The Lakewood Playhouse’s portrayal of Death of a Salesman is a well produced, engaging story that captivates its audience with a sad tale of a lonely man and his troubled family.

4000 Miles Review: A young man learns to accept loss and grow up with the help of his Grandma

4000 Miles is a play about taking responsibility and facing the hard truth that life and loss is never easy

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Fred Metzger/Courtesy Photo

Grandma Vera, played by Kate Russell, and Bec, played by Jazmine Herrington, in 4000 Miles.

The two main characters, Leo (Connor Roman) and Vera (Kate Russell), have a good dynamic. Roman and Russell’s performances gives the audience the idea that Vera was a controlling, feisty grandmother, and Leo was a lazy loner of a grandson.

Considering this was Roman’s first time on stage, he did a good job with room for improvement. Leo’s character does have a certain awkward, indecisive personality to him, but Roman’s performance felt too disconnected at times.

The characters that weren’t the two main leads felt like they needed more substance, either more development with Leo, or worked harder as someone who encouraged Leo to grow.

Bec, played by Jazmine Herrington, is a returning actress who was one of the highlights to the play. Whenever her character needed to display emotion, she transitioned well from someone confused, to someone angry, to someone on the verge of sobbing. Herrington and Roman worked well in displaying a fleeting chemistry that neither of them want. Her expressions were clear enough to where you followed her character’s thought process on how to handle Leo’s absent-minded personality.

Amanda, played by Rachel Derosier, was another minor character who did well. Derosier is another first timer, but managed to portray a drunk joker in the scene she was in. Her jokes were delivered well, and gave a good enough idea of who this brief character is and her effect on Leo’s arc.

Later into the play, closer to the end, Leo opens up and tells his grandma about how his friend died. It was an interesting moment when the character is the most vulnerable, and doesn’t know how to handle this emotion properly. So he jests and stammers, trying to tell this mournful event without getting too serious, staying true to his character’s theme.

But this emotion the actor himself is trying to display doesn’t hit as hard as it feels it should have. The pauses worked in adding emotion to the scene, but it yet again doesn’t make you feel like this supposedly uncaring, relaxed slacker is working through the troublesome feelings and memories.

The lighting was clever, with the room being completely dark with only two dimly lit lamp shades slightly lighting the actors. It added onto the atmosphere of the scene, and was a definitive moment that both gave answers to questions that have been raised throughout the play, as well as display the moment where Leo begins to take life seriously.

The Story didn’t really illustrate Leo’s arc and growth as well as hoped. Each scene was just one after the other with no real flow to them until closer to the end. It’s still an entertaining and simple play with some good lessons in accepting maturity and reality as hard as it may be to bare.

4000 Miles’ cast is for the most part good and do well to give the audience a decent idea of who they are and what they want, and though there were a few minor shortcomings with some of the performances, the play was still worth the watch.

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