New Stages' Avant-garde Show Not For 'Timid Of Mind'

November 06, 1991|By Keith Paul | Keith Paul,Staff writer

A young girl stuck in the middle of two cultures and trying to find the answers of her identity is the theme of the surrealistic play, "The Owl Answers," now playing at the Slayton House.

Adrienne Kennedy's avant-garde play is not for the closed-minded or those looking for a "sing-me-a-song or tell-me-a-story" type of play, director Kwame Bey warns.

"It's not for the timid of mind," he said. "Those who don't have their minds open are in for a shock. . . . It's a strong piece."

The story revolves around the girl, simply known as She, and takes place in a dream-type atmosphere, with settings in the New York subway, a Harlem bedroom and the Tower of London.

The girl is the offspring of a rich white man and a black woman, both from a small Southern town. She is adopted by the town's minister and his family but struggles to find her culture as both blacks and, more strongly, whites reject her.

"Every time man has expanded into a new culture, we tend to overlook that the new culture was spawn by the coming together of two old cultures," said Bey, who is also the technical director of Arena Players in Baltimore.

But the new culture also can result in the destruction of one of the old cultures, he said.

"I prefer to think of America not as a melting pot of culture but a mixed bag of colored marbles, and its conglomeration is beautiful," Bey said. He explained that each marble is a culture and instead of fusing all the cultures together, each should be allowed to thrive.

New Stages, created in 1987, is presenting Kennedy's play and is committed to bringing non-mainstream types of performances to the Howard County area, Artistic Director Prudence Barry said.

"We feel that it's important to do performances that people wouldn't be able to get at the local cinema or video store," she

said. "It doesn't make sense for us to do plays that are being done on Broadway or off-Broadway."

New Stages is breaking new ground in Howard County by presenting minority plays, Bey said.

"It takes a pretty daring group to present these plays, and they didn't have to do it," he said.

The dreamlike one-actplay uses such characters as William Shakespeare, William the Conqueror, Geoffrey Chaucer and Anne Boleyn as a chorus as the main character roams from setting to setting looking for answers.

Bey said thefamous characters personify everyday people -- people that She wouldmeet on the street.

"They are icons of the types of people," he said. "William the Conqueror is the militaristic type, and Shakespeareis the rogue. He was a rogue, but a rogue with some knowledge."

Barry said she saw use of the literary characters as a common thread that links people together.

"The historical experience of Shakespeare and Chaucer is so vital because the love of great literature is a common experience that we all have," she said. "It isn't just a privilege of the white population.

"The people She wanted to be around were in books, and that's a great message," Barry said. "The library is for everyone, not just for the privileged. It's an important message, especially in a time when people are reading less."

The Rosewood Trio, featuring county residents Elaine Newhall on flute, Annette Szawan on violin and Lynn Bryant on cello, will perform before the play. All three are Columbia Orchestra members.

The play's final performances are Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available for $9 -- $7for students and senior citizens -- at the door.

Call 799-8552 for reservations.

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