Thursday, June 11, 2015

Inhale, 9 Questions—Portland Playhouse—NE Portland

“To Thine Own Self Be True…”

This is a Showcase or Solo Show Festival for the Apprentice Company of this theatre.  The monologues are written by (I presume) the artists themselves and directed by the Instructors, Nikki Weaver, Gretchen Corbett and Cristi Miles.  It is playing at their space, 602 NE Prescott St., only through Wednesday, June 10th at 7 pm.  For more information on this program, go to their site at

The above quote form Hamlet is a bit of a misnomer, as it is spoken by a character (Polonius) who is undeniable false.  But the sentiment is true and decidedly fits the theme of these presentations, as they all, in one way or the other, are about seeking their own identity (as were many plays presented this season).  Not such a stretch, as they are in their twenties and looking for a path to find themselves and how they might put their mark on this unsettled world of ours.  They are, quite frankly, our future.

All of these eight presentations employed the use of stylized movement, dance, mime, visual aids, recorded music, song, video, recorded voices, shadow play, and/or live singing and playing a musical instrument.  They all were exploring their own image of self as they relate to death, life, family, friends, fear, bravery, heritage, bucket lists, sex, game-playing, obsession with looks, anxiety, stereotypes and experimentation.  We are all connected and, like it or not, we “oldsters” have been there, too.  Question is, how do you get here from there and who will you be when you finally “Arrive?”

These pieces are not so much a play about facts but about feelings and so I will approach my impressions from that position.  The Fastest Way Down (Sarah Gehring) hits upon an essential truth, if one wants to fly eventually you have to come down.  Or, perhaps, the moment you’re born, you begin to die.  And Life happens in-between those two episodes.  Falling on your face and eating gravel might be embarrassing but it is more harrowing if you don’t pick yourself up, brush yourself off and go forward.  She summoned it up well with, “being brave is like being an idiot for a good cause.”

I believe Gehring, as she seems in touch with herself.  She has a kinetic energy that is infectious and I envy those spurts of life…those moments of awareness…that ability to see beyond oneself to possibilities.  She is concentrated, daring and gives the awkwardness of Youth a nobility.

Boxed Up (Andy Haftkowycz) could be labeled “a stranger in a strange land.”  Boxing up your dreams and memories (good and bad) is one way of holding onto your truths.  Growing up in one heritage and then trying to apply it to a whole new world is not an easy task.  Who is a person really?

Are they to blindly follow traditions as they grew up or boldly to start their own?  We are who we are today, not in spite of our upbringing but because of it.  Haftkowcyz gives us a glimpse into two worlds and the brave struggle he makes to make a third one, his.  He portrays an honesty in his dilemma and enables us to walk in another’s shoes to see what the world looks like from his perspective.

L**E (Adriana Bordea) is about someone who at an early age has created a bucket list or goals to achieve in her lifetime.  Not too unusual, as on it are winning the lottery, going skinny-dipping, meeting a celebrity…and falling in l**e (something she can’t articulate).  Bordea is brave in at least bringing up the subject.  The definition of that four-letter word is misused so many times it may have lost its meaning.  Lust, as she finds out, may but a good substitute but it is not…It.  She finds herself at one point surrounded by paper statements as to its meaning and discovers everyone has a different connotation.  She is certainly honest in her portrayal and wise beyond her years in even asking the question.  But, as she discovers, it may not be L**E she needs to be addressing but commitment.  Ah, “there’s the rub.”

Gut (Corinne Gaucher) perhaps the bravest of the troupe, as she dares to face the question of this society’s obsession with the physical self.  Using paint, she marks her body with all the various physical shortcomings and possible ailments she may be subjected to.  This “gut” honesty is refreshing.  But what she reveals may be true, as to the obsession of our world, but is only endearing as she exposes her inner and physical self.  I applaud her honest and daring and, to be quite frank, I think she is just fine to look at (sans paint, of course) and, more importantly, her self-awareness and candor are very attractive features, too.

The People I’ve Loved (Jake Simonds) are about, just that, people he’s loved or have been important to him in exploring the issues of Sex.  His father, a bit of a dead-end there.  Friends, well they all think it’s about lust, getting your rocks off, scoring, getting it up.  And the women…but somehow there seems to be something missing…perhaps, that magic, elusive element called Love.  Simonds writes part of his piece in rhyme, which suggests a romantic at heart.  And that may be the key.  Romance…the “stuff that dreams are made on.”  He does hit all the right notes in his poem, as yet unfinished.

I Share, Therefore I Am (Sasha Belle Newfeld) may be the most prime…or, perhaps, I should say, primal example of finding oneself.  She believes she is a Rhino and seeks to prove it, by shedding her human trappings and allowing her inner (beast) self to come out.  It is an exploration of the psyche as well as the body.  Newfeld does reach down into her (our) depths to discover, perhaps, origins of being.  When an animal sheds one’s skin, or molts, they discover a new self.

I Am Meryl Streep (Emma Bridges) concentrates on the daring bravery of Streep in playing all the varied characters she’s presented, so convincingly, too, over the years.  In contrast, Bridges explores a person who is afraid of everything.  Her best friend in this search is Anxiety.  She was the youngest child in her family and probably was overprotected growing up.  Also, she never felt that she was good at anything and so her self-image was tarnished.  She was, in essence, afraid of change.  So, to overcome it, she boldly strove to face the Fears she cultivated.  She became a stand-up comic, got her long hair cut, went dragon-boating, climbed a mountain, etc.  Finding out, in the process, there is really “nothing to fear but Fear itself.”  I think she’s well on her way to becoming a pretty, remarkable person.

It Ain’t Easy (La ‘Tevin Alexander) presents the most topical of the pieces.  With all the violence that is going on in the cities today against Afro-Americans, it is important to note that it is not only very wrong but can definitely stunt the growth and potential of young individuals.  “Violence breeds violence.”  He shares with us the plight of a young black man simply being in the neighborhood where a crime is committed and being abused by police for simply being…black.  Exposing his soul is a bold move and what can be hoped for is that that people will listen, not only with their ears, but with their hearts, and change this atmosphere of hate to tolerance.

The Apprenticeship program is a powerful one for young artists and one can only hope it grows from here.  Weaver, Corbett and Miles are pros in their own right and have done a terrific job of mentoring these young performers.  They also need Host homes for young artists to reside in while they are immersed in their classes.  Hopefully, some of you will reach out and check their website and become involved in some way.  I recommend this program and see their show tonight if you can.

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