INDIANAPOLIS THEATER: REVIEWS “Human Rites,” Written by Seth Rozin, at the Phoenix Theatre (5 stars)

Review by Lisa Gauthier Mitchison, read the full review here.

Alan is a tenured cultural psychology professor. When one of his undergraduate classes submits a letter of complaint about a paper of his destined for publication, which he shared with them during a class, the dean, Michaela, challenges her former lover because she uncompromisingly rejects his research on female circumcision being performed in Africa. She dismisses his work as being credible, stating that he, as an American white male, could not reliably procure this information and claiming that the intangible nature of his field cannot provide actual facts.

His findings show that the majority of the women having the procedure embrace it as sacred because it is an initiation into the empowering women’s secret society of Bondo. They feel they are claiming their bodies’ femininity, and it forms bonds of sisterhood among them. Michaela also accuses Alan of stealing her similar research idea and of fetishizing black women. However, her own vitriol seems to be moored more in her own anger as a woman scorned (even ten years later) and in her own cultural superiority complex. Michaela has arranged to have the study repeated, headed up by a highly recommended graduate student at the university, who is from Sierra Leone, Lydia—a young black woman.

Rob Johansen, as Alan, and Milicent Wright, as Michaela, are both well-known, accomplished presences on Indianapolis stages, and they do not disappoint here. Under guest director Lavina Jadhwani, their body language, facial expressions, and line delivery create a realistic portrayal of a couple at odds both personally and professionally. Given their shared history, Johansen’s initial awkwardness and Michaela’s cold reception of him make their elevating, heated confrontational debate more personal.

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“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre

They are joined on stage by Paeton Chavis, as Lydia, who is also a force on stage. Her character holds her own, chin high, when faced with her educational “superiors.” In this role, she exudes the passion and strength of conviction that is often most evident in a younger generation. She also adopts a lilting accent to reiterate her character’s heritage. (Whether it is authentic or not, I cannot say, not being a student of African language, but dialect coach Chelsea Anderson pulled a musical cadence from Chavis.)

The show’s uses the hot-button issue of female circumcision, but through this, it also takes to task people’s inherent if subconscious belief of their own culture’s superiority. While the show is intense, there are brief moments of levity to break up the swirling rush of intellectual discourse. The emotionally charged verbal sparring can be overwhelming, but the inclusion of these breathers deters mental overload in preparation for the next onslaught of academic and personally fueled arguments.

Phoenix’s lower stage is moved almost to the center of the room, designed by Bernie Killian, allowing audiences an even closer and immersive experience.

Seth Rozin’s new play is based on actual accounts, not just speculation, which expands the play’s purpose, challenging audiences to examine their own emotional reactions and cultural prejudices.

The show is ninety minutes with no intermission, so get your drinks and cookie bars before it starts.

For an interesting read on the subject, check out https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-anthropologist/389640/.

  • Through August 13, Thursdays at 7  p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., $27; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., $33
  • www.phoenixtheare.org

HUMAN RITES, Written by Seth Rozin, Broadens Your Perceptions at Phoenix Theater

Academia. Culture. Anthropology. In-depth study. Research. Data collection. These hardly seem the buzz words for an impactful and insightful play, yet each of those weighty words holds sway in HUMAN RITES, which is currently playing at Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis…

However, I have saved the best key phrase for last because this powerhouse play centers on two pivotal words: female circumcision. Or is it female genital mutilation? That is the heated and impassioned debate sparked in the close office of Michaela Richards, played by Milicent Wright. This debate unfolds in a riveting fashion that is both jarring and eye-opening as only three characters never cease discussing its many twists, turns, and viewpoints.

It is very clear that the actors in this production made a study of the people they portrayed, for which I am very grateful. As an audience member, you have to watch these individuals talking for 90 straight minutes. And yet, I was never once tempted to look at the clock because I felt like the unwitting scientist who puts his or her subject of study under a microscope and is caught off guard by what awaits…

HUMAN RITES is a fast-paced and riveting invitation to see how deeply perception dictates our reality. Be prepared to have your own eyes opened, your own pre-conceived notions debunked, and your head left spinning with some inevitable questions: who would I be in this debate? And did I win?…

With the flow of HUMAN RITES never stopping and considering the deep, gritty content of the show, I was exhausted as just an audience member by the time it finished. The show covers the cultural view of the practice of female circumcision in explicit detail, so be aware of that before coming in. The constant banter of the actors makes it feel like you are in the room, taking side with the mere three actors.

Not only was I greatly impressed by the acting, but also the sheer stamina it takes to perform this show by Seth Rozin is beyond amazing. Zero stops, zero scene changes, zero costume changes, and pure emotion make this show different than any I have ever seen, which made it all the more impressive.

Read the full stunning review from Broadway World here.

LEAF CUTTER By Yasmine Rana is Finalist in City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting

Center, Yasmine Rana (Playwright). Left, Margaret Ledford (Artisitic Director), and right, Susan Westfall (CoFounder and Literary Director).

LEAF CUTTER, written by Yasmine Rana (center, above), was a finalist for the City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting. It was awarded a staged reading at the Olympia Theater in Miami at the CityWrights 2017 launch, and directed by Artistic Director Margaret Ledford (above, left).

‘TL;DR: THELMA LOUISE; DYKE REMIX’ Book and Lyrics by EllaRose Chary

“TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix” is a parody sequel, queer rock musical that asks the question “why do strong female characters always gotta die?” and turns the death as freedom narrative for women on its head. It starts mid-air in a Thunderbird convertible suspended over the Grand Canyon.

Starring Alison Lea Bender (Academia Nuts NYMF) and COURTNEY DANIELS (Shrek; National Tour) as T and L, TL;DR is backed by a band of badass rockstars. Loud and proud, TL;DR resists the idea that queer/lesbian narratives have to live in subtext and defies the “bury your gays” trope by giving our heroines the ending they deserve. TL;DR takes on the patriarchy, the gaytriarchy, and anything else standing in the way of T and L’s love.

TL;DR has a book and lyrics by EllaRose Chary and music and lyrics by Brandon James Gwinn (Dramatist Guild Fellows, Ars Nova Uncharted Residents, Feinstein’s/54 Below). The production is directed by Sash Bischoff (BWAY The Visit, On The Town, How to Succeed) and musically directed by ELLEN WINTER. The production features Scenic Design by Ann Beyersdorfer, Costume Design by JUSTIN NAKO, and is managed by CHRISTINE J. COLONNA. The band features SAM KASETA (Bass), WES RUIZ (Drums), and JULIET GARRETT (Guitar). NATE BERTONE produces the production.

This show is being produced as part of The Tank’s annual PrideFest 2017! Over the course of two weeks, The Tank is opening the floor to a wide variety of performances and discussions surrounding the topics of sexuality, gender, and equality. The works presented will celebrate this community, address challenges that are still faced as we strive for equal civil rights, and evoke or give way to new ideas and perceptions on how we define ourselves, individually, within our own community, and in the global community at large. Whether through unity or discordance, these performances and discussions, workshops and forums, ought to shed light on the dynamic individuals and groups who make up the vibrant LGBTQIAP community.

For tickets and more information, visit www.thetanknyc.org. Performances are July 6, 2017, 9:30 p.m., July 7, 2017, 7 p.m., July 14, 2017, 7 p.m., and July 15, 2017, 9:30 p.m.  From Broadway World.

Mark St. Germain Adapting John Updike HAMLET Prequel for the Stage; Reading Set for Orlando!

Orlando Shakespeare Theater (Orlando Shakes) in Partnership with UCF continues to expand its mission to bring thought-provoking new theatrical works to Central Florida through a commission with playwright Mark St. Germain to write an adaptation of John Updike’s bestselling novel, Gertrude and Claudius.

A staged reading of the play will be featured at the Theater’s annual play festival, PlayFest 2017 presented by Harriett’s Charitable Trust, and is scheduled to receive a world premiere in 2019 as part of Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s 30th season.

Gertrude and Claudius is a New York Times and Washington Post best seller and has received national and global acclaim.

Read the full article from Broadway World here!