This weekend, April 28-30, audiences will have three opportunities to view the pilot production of a new flagship VOICES project, “Sage Voices: Precious and Endless.”
“Sage Voices” is the fourth in a rotation of spring and fall shows, each occurring every other year. Similar to “Nuestras Voces,” “Women’s Voices” and “Queer Voices,” it is a piece of “devised” theater, drawing on the talents, creativity and experiences of its ensemble to invent a script around some concept. In this case, the concept is intergenerational story sharing.
The cast consists of 15 people, with elders ages 76 to 97 and youth ages 11 to 14, weaving together personal anecdotes of growing up, letting go and facing fears: “the moments that make up our lives,” as described by a press release. The show, it continues, “invites audiences to enter a timeless playscape where they can let their imagination wander.”
“It’s been interesting working with these two different groups,” said Director Cassidy Willey. “I’ve worked with youth before, but this is the first time we’ve worked with sages specifically. The combination of the two has been really magic. It’s fun to see where they relate to one another and where there are huge differences.”
The show was developed in three stages, beginning in February with exploratory art making, song writing, poetry and collaborative exercises. For Willey, that’s “where people started to build relationships.” Of the stories shared, “Some developed into themes, others existed in that day and that moment.”
During the second stage, with meetings twice a week in March, themes were developed for a preview performed on March 22. Now the ensemble has a unified piece ready to be shared, with scenes from different storytellers flowing together. The ensemble also worked with singer-songwriter Jackson Emmer to produce original music with lyrics derived from a poetry workshop guided by playwright Kristin Carlson.
According to Willey, the youth have also stepped into leadership, many having learned the process and terminology for making theater through Stage of Life Theatre Company (SoL) programming, whereas some of the sages had never before participated in theater.
Among those youth, Vianne Camara, age 14, has worked with SoL for six years and aspires to be a professional actress. “I feel like this show is a good way for the community to learn and grow from wisdom that is told from the youth and the sages,” she said. “It’s about real life.”
Camara was paired with a Spanish-speaker elder, Maria Alicia Pastrana, which has connected her deeper to her own Mexican roots. Because their vignette is bilingual, Camara was motivated to run lines with her father who is from Mexico City.
For Willey, the bonding that occurs during rehearsals is among theater’s greatest gifts. “There’s a whole iceberg of stuff that doesn’t make it on stage, but each moment and each part of that work together has informed how we relate to one another and the art that we do create and eventually share,” she said.
“Come to see the show,” Camara insisted. “If you enjoy it, try to do something with it. It doesn’t have to be theater, it could be drawing or writing a poem, something to express your feelings, because the show inspires that a lot.”
Willey concluded. “I haven’t seen anything like this before on stage, and so I’m really honored and thrilled to be a part of that.”
“Sage Voices: Precious and Endless” opens on Friday, April 28, at the Thunder River Theatre and continues on Saturday at 6pm. The Sunday show, April 30 is at 3pm. Tickets are available at www.voicesrfv.org