Elizabethtown College community offers feedback for theatre work “Gathering Blue”
The production’s cast sits in black chairs across from music stands, their binders opened to Page 1.
Act 1, Scene 1: A village in the woods. The colors of blooming flowers are apparent. Men and women barter and argue.
The troupe from Gretna Theatre in Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania, premiered a concert reading of Lois Lowry’s “Gathering Blue” on Sunday, March 19, 2017, in the Elizabethtown College Tempest Theatre. Lowry, also known for her creative talents in authoring “The Giver” in 1993, developed “Gathering Blue” as a companion piece to this best-selling novel.
The reading told the story of Kira, a girl who has a superb Gift of Embroidery. The village in which she lives does not appreciate those who are not perfect, making Kira an easy target for scorn with her crippled leg.
The Singer sings a special song during The Gathering, and he must always look pristine, so Kira is charged with the task of repairing his robe. Kira is joined by her young friend Matt who decides to live in the woods outside the village. Thomas is a 16-year-old boy who has the Gift of Carpentry. He befriended Kira, and they discuss their Gifts and their mutual orphanage.
Many talents were showcased throughout the performance from a cast of mixed ages, and all actors performed with high energy levels and animation, palpable throughout the show, which allowed the audience to be in tune with the plot.
Anna Sorrentino, a sophomore theater major at Elizabethtown College, expressed interest in the play before it commenced.
“I read the book in ninth grade …,” she recalled. “I read it in one sitting.”
Musical elements were sprinkled throughout the performance, adding to the depth of the story. Cast members performed behind their music stands and read the lyrics from their binders. Songs included themes about freedom, youth and innocence. Kira often sang as the character honed her weaving skills with the help of a seamstress. She also sang during moments when she felt especially driven to make changes in her life.
As the story progresses, Kira and Thomas befriended Jo, and all three discovered their true purposes in Lowry’s futuristic society. As Kira collected various threads to repair the Singer’s robe, the threads that are the framework for the Council’s governmental systems begin to unravel.
A question-and-answer session was held after the performance for audience members to offer suggestions to playwright Richard Hellesen, composer Michael Silversher and lyricist Joy Sikorski. Artistic Director Thomas Cote, who led the Q&A, asked the audience what performance elements they like–the musical score, the overall symbolism of the piece, the realistic dialogue the children spoke and the reading itself, which eliminated the distractions of sets and props–and what they disliked or were confused about during the play–the morality of some characters, the symbolism of the syllables in names and one commented that it was easy to get lost if one hadn’t previously read the novel.
The constructive criticism had Hellesen zealously note-taking on his memo pad.
Managing Director Joseph Giardina explained the special nuances pertaining to live theater and Sunday’s performance.
“The play still needs work, and hearing it with actors and an audience is critical to the process,” he stated. “An audience tells you so much about whether the play is working or not based on the immediate reaction you get as it plays. That’s why live theater is so unique. It is a communal experience of sorts.”
Giardina said he and other cast members find live theater and readings such as these are great experiences to be a part of because everyone can see the work unfold, and they can determine what work still needs to be done.
“In one word,” Sikorski asked the audience, “what is the play about?”
Giardina, summarized what he believed the play to be about.
“I think this is an important piece of theater for the time we are living in,” he intoned. “It is about overcoming obstacles, not accepting what the powers that be tell us and trying to build a unified life of acceptance and peace.”
The world premiere of “Gathering Blue,” directed by Peter Ellenstein, is Aug. 24, 2017, at Gretna Theatre. This is the first world premiere at Gretna in more than 30 years.
~ E-town NOW guest writer is Skye McDonald, a senior English Professional Writing Major, Communications Minor