Thursday, January 18, 2018

Weaving Women Together—Portland Playhouse—SE Portland


Fabric of One’s Life

This production, a play in progress, is written, composed and performed by Nikki Weaver and directed by Gretchen Corbett with choreography by Jessica Wallenfels.  It is performing at the Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St., through January 28th.  For more information, go to their site at www.portlandplayhouse.org

This, as mentioned, is a development piece (but full performance), a work in progress, that will be added to and subtracted from over a period of time.  So this is not really a review, since it’s not in its “completed stage” yet, but more of an overview or preview.

From my perspective, when I saw this, I was reminded of the old African adage, “it takes a whole village to raise a child.”  This phrase seems to fit her theme, as she lost her mother when she was 10 and was “raised” in a sense by a whole series of people ever after, all of which she plays, with only a change of a prop or costume piece to suggest character, relying almost totally on her acting ability, which is rich.

She also moved around a bit living in different parts of the U.S. and even Australia, adding to her character and, one might say, giving her previews of different life styles, so she was able to live, in a sense, “different lives” or selves, a rich heritage for one who has ambitions to become an actor.  The woman/mother/actor that she has become is a culmination of those periods.

Her teachers, step-mother, coaches, friends and, of course, her own family, mother, father and grandmother, are all parts of that “fabric” she now calls, Nikki Weaver.  The dress she wears is made up of the rag pieces from the various individuals, which influenced her life.  She also reached out to many other women and asked them to share their stories and pieces of fabric from their lives, as well.  And, if you’re so inclined, you’re invited to bring a piece of cloth and a story when you see the show and add it to their collection in the lobby area.  My story/rag was added, too, and is included at the end of this preview.

One other note, she has written songs and sings, as well as plays on the piano for this story (and dances, too) and they are all quite good additions.  The songs could stand alone as performance pieces.  There are also visual “essays” to compliment her tales.  Her performance is outstanding, in my opinion, at this stage of the development piece.  And Corbett and Wallenfels have enhanced her saga beautifully with their unique gifts.  We are all, I believe, made up of stories, and stories within stories of others, to form who we are today.  
And so, here is mine to share with her:

“The Patchwork People
Recollections of my Aunt and Grandma, as seen through the eyes of a young child:
It must have been in the 50’s when I remember going over to my Aunt’s house, and Grandma was there, too, and if they hadn’t been baking in the kitchen, wondrous smells of now-forgotten recipes wafting into the room, then they’d be sitting by an old Franklin stove, with a wooden apple crate full of bits and pieces of old dresses, aprons, shirts, socks, etc., a cornucopia of rainbows, from a time of forgotten lore.  And they’d be busy connecting these mini-memories, with needles and thread, into a larger memento, a quilt, to do homage to those souls that had passed onto other areas of existence.
They would pay no never-mind to me, as I was only a child and what could I possibly have to say at this stage of my life.  But they would chatter on about the lives of those individual patches and, for a moment, they seemed to come alive for me, too, these patch-work people, although I had never known them.  And so, this weaving of memories was, in a way, responsible for me becoming an artist, a writer, as I have added imagination into their mix of rags, and through it all, another generation of stories, and storytellers, was born.

--Dennis J. Sparks (January, 2018)”
I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

--DJS