As audience members filed into the University of Richmond Cousins Studio Theatre this weekend, the actors of "blu" sat exposed at vanities, and a disc jockey spun records.
The nontraditional setup reflected the Department of Theatre and Dance's unique approach to Virginia Grise's 2010 Yale Drama award-winning play, "blu."
The contemporary play is centered around a U.S. Latino family and its struggles with gang life, poverty, a father behind bars and the loss of a child. After Blu, the lead character, is killed in Iraq, the characters are sent into a spiral of memories and harsh realities of the streets where they live.
The mother, Soledad, dreams of better lives for her children, while her daughter Gemini and son Lunatico contemplate hopeful thoughts from their rooftop. The cast members jump through time and space, blurring past and present. The use of repetition and choral dialogue express the story through poetry, music and movement.
The cast was composed of six Richmond undergraduate students, including one freshman, one sophomore, three juniors and a senior.
Freshman Luka Klimaviciute, who played Gemini, decided to audition for the production after listening to type of speeches about involvement every day during her freshman orientation, she said.
The piece was incredibly challenging for the cast because the movement was highly difficult, and the flow of the piece was very physical, said Mary McDonnell, a theatre major. Junior Maggie McGrann, who portrayed Soledad and is a seasoned actor at the UR Main Stage, said that the biggest challenge for her had been maintaining her energy throughout the rehearsal process, which had required a lot of stage movement.
McGrann said that her fellow cast members had been extremely energetic and supportive throughout the season.
"This is the first show I've been in where each performance got better and better as we went," McGrann said. "I absolutely loved sharing the stage with my peers."
The actors' performances illustrated problems relatively unfamiliar to some audience members. "The show really opened my eyes to a lot of issues I didn't know about," McDonnell said.
Jose Joaquin Garcia, a guest director in the theatre department, directed the play, and resident faculty member Patricia Herrera was the assistant director. Alicia Diaz, a resident faculty member, choreographed the play.
Garcia has composed, directed, acted, sung and written since 1986. Garcia is has also been a renowned teaching-artist at the Brooklyn New School for the last 17 years through the Brooklyn Arts Exchange. He has performed extensively in New York, focusing on bringing New York Latino voices to the stage, and has traveled with the Pregones Theatre Co. He also co-founded the Rubi Teather Co. in 2001, according to the program.
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