Christiana as Oya and Sonja Parks as Mama Moja and Greta Oglesby as Aunt Elegua in the production "In the Red and Brown Water."
Photo credit: 2011 © Michal Daniel
"In the Red and Brown Water" runs through June 5 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. It's a production of Pillsbury House Theatre, in conjunction with The Mount Curve Company. It's author, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, has been hailed as "the next August Wilson."
Thinking about seeing the show? Check out these excerpts of reviews by local critics; click on the links to read the full reviews.
The first play in a trilogy, "Red and Brown Water" mixes myth with realism. It centers on Oya (Christiana Clark), a track star living in a Louisiana housing project, who is offered an athletic scholarship to college. Oya declines the offer to care for her sick mother, Mama Moja (the inestimable Sonja Parks). Her life goes on, dimmed but not over, as she seeks fulfillment in the arms of competing lovers -- army man Shango (Ansa Akyea) and businessman Ogun (James A. Williams).
McCraney's writing is witty, poetic and profound, marrying the supple poetics of Shakespeare, the mythic sweet spots of Federico Garcia Lorca and August Wilson and the choreographed soulfulness of Ntozake Shange with an urban lyricism. There's not much to the plot, but McCraney brings out the majesty of his poor characters, named after Yoruba deities.
...This production, suffused with music, light and levity, announces the arrival of a brilliant new voice.
Ansa Akyea as Shango, Greta Oglesby as Aunt Elegua, and Christiana Clark as Oya
Photo credit: 2011 © Michal Daniel
"In the Red and Brown Water" flows briskly during its first half but grows static in its second. And the central character isn't nearly as magnetic as many of those who orbit around her. But what the author doesn't give her in words, Christiana Clark makes up for in a physically expressive performance.
She plays Oya, a product of the projects in a Louisiana city. As the play begins, she's a high school track star being offered a college scholarship, which she declines because of her mother's illness. It's the first step on a path toward hopelessness for Oya, who becomes the center of a rivalry between two men and looks to motherhood as a last chance for fulfillment.
But the plot isn't the point of this play. It's more an exploration of emotions and interchanges, poetry and pain. Its characters' inner lives surface as they speak stage directions ("Elegba exits like a three-quarter moon in the daytime"; "Ogun exits, leaving his heart behind him.").
And there's a transporting sense of magical realism in the elaborate details of a dream and a character being swept away by a river of gospel singers.
Greta Oglesby as Aunt Elegua and Christiana Clark as Oya, with the ensemble in the background
Photo credit: 2011 © Michal Daniel
The lyrical comedy, the moon-driven theatricality is terrific, as is the play's ambitiousness. But Oya's desire for pregnancy feels a touch tacked on, a way of providing a conclusion. A small complaint, this, given the complex beauty of In The Red And Brown Water.
Is there better acting to be found in the cities - or anywhere? I doubt it. Director Marion McClinton provides us a simple painted floor and scrim (niftily designed by David Gallo and beautifully lit by Michael Wangen), puts some lawn chairs on the sides and then wisely gets out of the gifted cast's way.
As Oya, Christiana Clark thrills. Lithe and muscular, leggy and gorgeous, Clark leaps about the stage, running circles around the other characters, energizing, driving the play with a compelling combination of desperate fear and exuberant defiance. This is a performance that will grow and build - and stay with you.
Have you seen "In the Red and Brown Water?" If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
To learn more about the production, check out Euan Kerr's story here.
The College of Visual Arts Gallery, located on the corner of Selby and Western in St. Paul
All images courtesy of the College of Visual Arts
Each year the Minnesota State High School League organizes contests in a wide variety of categories, including the visual arts.
And each year, the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul displays the winners of the "Judge's Choice" award. CVA's Director of Admissions, Elyan Paz, coordinates the event, which is now in its 6th year.
We wanted the Judge's Choice recipients to be recognized for their achievement and create an exhibition that celebrates some of the best high school artwork in the state. The artists have their work in a gallery and participate in an artist's discussion with their peers during the reception. We also recognize the high school art educators that submitted the artwork for their school.
Students will travel from all over the state with their parents in tow to attend the reception, held this Saturday afternoon. There they'll be treated to more than 80 works of art, including paintings, drawings, photography, ceramics, sculpture, stained glass and welding.
Luke Listad, Grade 12
Title: Dream Gear
Forest Lake Senior High School
The exhibition program was the idea of Anoka High School Art Educator Kevan Nitzberg back in 2006. Since then, Paz says she has since a steady increase in the sophistication of the work submitted.
The artwork medium has evolved along with the technology that is available for students within the classroom and beyond. We are seeing more digital artwork, and there are more pieces using mixed media within the sculpture and craft categories. I attribute this to the teachers and the increased exposure students have to the world around them.
Nancy Yang, Grade 12
Tile: World Maps (one of two paintings)
Century High School, Rochester
Paz says she's always impressed by those pieces which no doubt took up far more time than was allotted for in class, revealing a deep commitment on the part of the student. And she say the arts educators supporting these students are incredibly dedicated and passionate about the art.
A challenge for art colleges and art teachers is educating everyone on the importance of art within our schools and communities. Research has shown us that art is an important element of a strong and vibrant community. One way of bringing attention to our talented high school artists is by participating in the MSHSL Visual Arts festivals and the Minnesota State Visual Arts High School Exhibition.
If you want to see the award-winning work of these high schoolers, you'll want to hurry; the students get to take their work home with them after the reception on Saturday.
A couple of things struck me in the interview. First, relative youngster that I am, I had no idea there was such a strong connection between jazz music and riverboat culture. Well it didn't take long to find out that there are entire tomes dedicated to the subject.
Secondly, while I knew jazz musicians often play some lowly gigs just to pay the rent, hearing Goetting talk about a gig playing backup for a belly dancer was downright incongruous. What an image!
You can listen to the entire interview by clicking on the link below: