Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So Glad I Caught This Dream...

This past Sunday I attended the final performance of Anung’s First American Christmas. Therefore, I “bookended” this particular Vitalist Theatre show. Usually I see them much more than twice. Besides being rich in nuances, Vitalist is compelling. However, due to the “always someplace to be” and “must also get to’s” of the holiday season as well as the fact that Bart and I went out of town for a week, I could only go to the first and last dates. Yet it provided a different perspective. I observed the full evolution of the piece. Considering how much I enjoyed it initially, imagine the impact it made when tightened, re-tuned and “set.” Since the playwright, actors and crew created a world from scratch, they had the opportunity to truly explore and discover it to achieve Opening Night. Since then, their confidence in their performance and the fluidity of the transitions grew… to the point of allowing yet more exploration. The final show resonated with all the glory that sprung from the first, harnessed and channeled to its full effect.

Naturally, this time around I grabbed more strands of the woven culture. Such layering! The simplistic becomes complex just by reference. For instance, Anung is subjected to school. Not the teachings of his Tribe, but that of Western culture…Christian culture. The nun is horrified at the mention of anything Native. One of Anung’s friends shows him the Sears catalog, teaming with magnificent goodies - toys, clothes - you name it. He thrills Anung with White Beard who rides in the sky with his magical elk. Ah. The familiar Santa Claus story. But for a young Native American boy, the story is not so common. But how UNcommon is it? Is the wacky mythology of Kris Kringle and all its fantastical elements really all that different from the imaginative tales and legends of Native Americans? Trade descriptions all you want - you will end up with the same substance. A passion for giving, a devoutness for Nature and creativity. By the way, the boys pronounce it Seers [as in See-ers.]

The interlocking is everywhere… from a snowy Christmas tree comprised of white wings to a heroic Native American youth assuming the role of the Little Drummer Boy. And for the record, Mary of Nazareth is depicted as the great woman many expect her to be - except perhaps a bit greater. For this Mary is full of the compassion and wisdom to observe and accept the connectivity of Native and Nativity.

I don’t want to spoil all of it for you… because there’s wonderful news. The show is expected to return! Despite a few who couldn’t dig deep enough into their own shallow view, the response to the show has been great. The founders of Vitalist had been asked by many, “You’re doing this show again… right?” And it’s been very well received by the First Americans as well. Apparently it captures the spirit of their legends, presenting their culture accurately and with reverence. (I whole-heartedly agree!) Corporate backing may be involved... plus, there are plans to take the show to London! BRAVO!

If you missed Anung’s First American Christmas by the incomparable Vitalist Theatre, don’t make the same mistake the next time it comes to life.

Oh… quite honestly, the intensive, triumphant drumming stayed with me long after the blackout once again. I heard the magical pounding still as I helped out with striking the set after the show. There’s something truly sad about dismantling a 14 foot Dreamcatcher.

But it makes little difference… for Vitalist Theatre will continue to catch dreams!

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