Monday, July 27, 2009

Benefit Performance: Interact with JUST/Act!

Teenagers! You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them! Teen years can be the most difficult for communication, but families and friends are important.

Monday Was a Normal Day,”

a free two-hour interactive performance event at

ARTS/West (132 West State Street, Athens) this Friday, July 31st at 8 PM and Sunday, August 2nd at 2 PM

was created and is performed by JUST/Act!, a group of area teens.

The play examines the affects (in one week) of a Tuesday high school drug bust on friends and family members of those not directly involved in the event. In this performance event, after each act (or scene) the audience questions through an open forum the characters from the scene and, at the end of the performance, also discusses issues raised with all the actors.

“Interactive theatre is a very unique form of theatre because it breaks down the barriers between audience and performer and creates important dialogue about the issues that these teens and young adults deal with in everyday life,” explains Patrick Gallagher, a second-year student at Sarah Lawrence College. “It is a really unique experience for audiences, who are so often passive when watching TV, films or plays, because they get to ask questions and participate in a forum that they couldn’t in traditional plays and get to know the characters in ways they wouldn’t otherwise,” states Psyche Castro, an Ohio University student majoring in Art History who has participated in JUST/Act! for six years. “ I think that it develops a good connection with the community because it gives people the opportunity to go deeper into the play rather than just walking out of the theatre at the end of a play,” affirms Jody Pratt-Harrington , an Alexander High 10th grader who has been working with JUST/Act! since 7th grade.

“This form of theatre is a creative way to explore many societal perspectives,” says Corina Dalzell, a 2009 graduate of Athens High School who will attend Bennington College for theatre and dance this fall and participated in JUST/Act! for four years. She feels that this experience has been “a wonderful training for acting and a delightful community to be in as well as perform for.” Psych Castro believes that this experience has been beneficial to her “because I get to play roles outside who I am and see how other people play roles different from themselves and how we interact when playing these characters.”

These teens/young adults hope that others will see the performance and be interested in joining the project. “I definitely enjoy acting,” states Shannon Pratt-Harrington, an Alexander High senior also taking classes at Hocking College who participated since 7th grade except for a year she spent as an international exchange student in Germany. She believes that “all students should have the opportunity to do this type of theatre because it also touches on societal issues. I’ve also met a lot if great and interesting people doing this which has been very special.” Her sister Jody adds, “I would love for other people to be involved. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t enjoy it so much.”

Just/Act! was originally part of several year-long 317 Board TEAM Athens County grant-funded projects. When funding for such projects ended, a group of eight teens decided to keep working to develop a more detailed drama than could be developed in a year. Teens continued to train in acting, improvisation and play writing. Playwriting for this form of theatre is different because the audience is the most important part of the play. Over the past two years area teens--grades 7 through college--from four school districts, Ohio University and Hocking college and from two counties worked to develop this play, “Monday Was a Normal Day” to be performed about local issues for this community and with the hope that other teens join.

“Creating interactive theatre differs from traditional performances because it is a democratic process from start to finish,” said Kathy Devecka, a theatre consultant who works with JUST/Act! “Students learn to work as a team. We schedule rehearsals around students’ schedules and work to include all perspectives. In the scenes, the dialogue and events are semi-scripted. But, in performance, the audience asks questions of characters in a facilitated forum after each scene. Thus 75% of the performance is improvised based on carefully constructed character back stories. So each performance is different because each audience pursues different information. The audiences become a learning community and part of this democratic process.” This performance event is facilitated by Kathy Devecka and former JUST/Act! member Patrick Gallagher.

Performances are Friday, July 31st at 8 PM and Sunday, August 2nd at 2 PM at ARTS/West, 132 West State Street, Athens. There is no Saturday performance. Doors will open Friday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 1:30 PM. Light refreshments will be served after the event. The event is free. Donations are welcome and will be shared by ARTS/West and JUST/Act!