I was privileged to speak with three members of the Goodman Theatre’s “Cindy Bandle Young Critics” (CBYC) program recently. The program, in its seventh year, is produced in partnership with the Association for Women Journalists (AWJ) Chicago and named for the Goodman’s longtime press director. The goal of CBYC is to increase awareness of and participation in arts journalism.
CBYC is free for 11th grade girls and this year’s program had 33 participants who attend bi-monthly meetings at the Goodman. There the AWJ mentors helped them to develop their critical voice and learn the mechanics of writing, professional journalism and issues pertinent to women and criticism.
My students, Maya, Ariel and Maya, were inquisitive, insightful and fun. We had a free ranging conversation about the program, their favorite and lest favorite productions and the importance of finding your personal voice as a writer. We spoke just days after the death of Maya Angelou and, coincidentally, both Mayas were named for the prolific poet, author, activist and cultural icon.
CBYC participants review and write feature stories about the productions in the Goodman’s season, as well as interview artists and staff. Alumni of CBYC have a 100% college matriculation rate, and many continue their work with theater and journalism, whether joining the Goodman’s Youth Arts Council, becoming a theater intern or majoring in theater or journalism.
Program mentors from AWJ include Cheryl Corley (lead mentor), National Public Radio; Nancy Day, Columbia College Chicago; Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press; Nneka McGuire, Krames StayWell; Elizabeth Neukirch, The Silverman Group, Inc.; Dawn Raftery, hibu; Kerry Reid, freelance journalist; Susy Schultz, The Daily Journal; Catey Sullivan, Chicago magazine; and Joanne von Alroth, Reuters.
All three of the students agreed that White Snake, written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, was one of their favorite productions of the year. So I’m turning today’s column over to Ariel Majewski to provide her commentary of the ancient Chinese fable. The production ended its Goodman run this past Sunday.
A Forked Path to Success
Theatre Review: “White Snake” at the Goodman Theatre
Reviewed by Young Critic Ariel Majewski
May 19, 2014
A revival of your childhood fairytales performs at the Goodman Theatre. Mythical creatures, sorcery, and adventure fill the stage in “White Snake”, a vibrant presentation of the oral Chinese tradition. This legend, which is exemplified through a florid display of visual aids, brings the audience back to the magical realms of their youthful dreams.
The production unfolds with the aid of several narrators, who tell the story of two snake spirits’ journey. Tired of isolation, White Snake (Amy Waschke), desires to explore a forbidden frontier. She studies for centuries in order to master a difficult transformation: life as a human. Accompanied by Green Snake (Tanya McBride), the two curious friends adapt into a small village beyond the mountainside. These snakes, who are not accustomed to empathetic emotions, are tested by privations and passions, which leave a humane mark on their wild natures.
The charismatic costumes in “White Snake” brighten the production’s mood. Animals are manifested through many forms, whether it be feathered coats or pulsating scales. Humans wore elaborate cloaks and dresses, which lacked anything but detail.
Props were a major essential to the story. Multi-colored fabrics flowed gracefully into several works of art, and the simple placement of umbrellas accentuated the setting.
Waschke and McBride not only mastered the art of capturing the hearts of naïve, playful snakes, but also that of their gestures. The actors utilized props to demonstrate their conversion as slithering creatures. By mimicking instinctive moves, such as coiling the smooth bodies as well as flicking their tales, the snakes appeared to contain energy and life.
Lighting played another key role as brilliant, gleaming tints blended with swirling lanterns and a dancing background. With so much visual activity occurring, extra settings were not needed.
The musical instruments even contributed to the atmosphere. The growing swells and dims of stringed instruments alluded to the tone of each scene. Unique percussion sounds also emphasized the flavor of Chinese culture.
Through the beautiful combination of pictorial and audio perceptions, Director Mary Zimmerman entices viewers to discover what lurks beyond the enchanting forked paths of “White Snake”.
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