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Posted by : cj on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 03:44 PM
Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines A POETIC VISION OVERCOMES TRAGEDY

Smoke and Mirrors' Production Of "Giving Sorrow Words" At Breadline Theatre. Reviewed by Anna Husain

Interpretive theatre is alive and well in Chicago! On Friday, July 12th, through Sunday, July 14th, on a pleasant, unlikely sidestreet, a little bit of history was made. I am speaking of Smoke and Mirrors debut production of "Giving Sorrow Words", an adaptation to the poetry book of the same name.

Co-edited by Charlie Rossiter, in collaboration with the National Association for Poetry Therapy, "Giving Sorrow Words" (When tragedy strikes, poetry happens) came together, after the 9/11 catastrophe. Several high profile poets, including Rossiter, contributed their poetry to the effort, a coming to terms with grief, from this and other life changing experiences. All ticket proceeds were donated to NAPT, and free books may be ordered ($2 s/h first book/$1 for each additional/25 maximum), by mailing a check to "NAPT Foundation/GSW - NAPT, 733 15th St., N.W., #330, Washington, D.C. 20005.

Breadline Theatre at 1802 W. Berenice Street, where "Giving Sorrow Words" was performed, is an unexpected jewel, in an unassuming neighborhood, adjacent to the Irving Park brownline (and I mean, it is right there, above the vine draped cement wall) - you can hear the el train going over every few minutes, though this does not detract from, but seems to enhance the experience.

Entering Breadline, you come into a small, but well ventilated, thirty nine stadium seated area, facing the black/white checkerboard floored stage, black painted walls and ceilings, and a sheetstyle curtain hung by rings, from black cable. The audience quickly filled the place, front row was warned to keep feet off the stage (which was directly in front of me and my colleagues, who liked to be up close and personal), due to more active scenes, which would be using the whole set, and the show was begun.

Smoke and Mirrors, an innovative troupe of two women and seven men, offered a visceral, moving, refreshing new way to internalize a poetic experience. Improvisational dance, and in-your-face acting, literally fleshed out the words, made the poetry more easily accessible/assimilated through the eyes, ears, and heart.

"Ojibway Prayer", with the pounding rhythm of poles, "For My Friends Who Are Afraid" (William Stafford), with writhing bodies, stunning choreography,

"Hopi Prayer", with disembodied faces, and seeds passed hand to hand, and "New Bones" (Lucille Clifton), with metallic bars positioned as metaphor, were my favorites, and I was left wanting more of the same, when all came to conclusion, some sixy minutes later.

Directly after the performance, Charlie Rossiter, collaboratior/moderator, took the stage, and there was a question/answer session, where he (along with these talented actors) described how the project, from poetry book, to theatre performance first came to be - out of a Renewal Day workshop for social workers, at Loyola University! Charlie stated that this whole event is unique, in that it is not a readers theatre, not a standard one act play, yet adapted for stage, pointing out that several poems were presented without one word being spoken.

I asked director, Nick Jones, if there would be more of the same in the near future, for those who missed out on a truly wonderful experience THIS time. He said, that with funding, and further interest, they are hoping to continue, possibly adding more poetry, also. Their website is www.smokeandmirror.org, should anyone wish to inquire further, regarding their plans.

I came away, honored to have been given the opportunity to view this work in progress, from the ground floor up. I wish Smoke & Mirrors Productions/and Charlie Rossiter, in his own right, a successful run, with this project, and that their efforts will eventually be seen/heard nationally, as they branch out, reaching as many as possible, with their poetic vision.

--Anna Husain for ChicagoPoetry.com / July 14, 2002

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