Logistics of Performance and Audience in American Prom

garage-2

 

By Christie Ma

What was Idris’ creative process, I wonder? How was that tampered with, hindered, and enhanced by the space and people available? For instance, a five-person cast where three members played multiple characters, both seemed laborious and efficient, given they were minor characters. This limitation on the growth of character interactions and settings that could take place very much centred the dynamic between Kia and Jimmy Jr. Might this have been a scripted intention, or funding/logistical issues; given that the roles were paid, I wonder how much time and energy both cast and crew put in. As it turns out, their rehearsals had started on January 2nd– meaning the cast and crew had had just over three weeks to memorise lines, rehearse, run tech, and perform!

Very little time for a lot to produce; the set-up of the stage and lights seemed a strategic endeavour. There were different sections illuminated that gave the space a versatility it may not have otherwise had, given its small size. Pulling the ‘garage’ doors back and forth created a more intimate space for scenes – the majority of which broke the fourth wall – to take place on the outside during set/costume changes. Centring the Jimmys’ garage-room was effective too – that is to say, monotonous. Giving off the routine of home life and familiarity each character had with it expanded this garage-room served to highlight how central Jimmy’s growth and focus were (read: on himself) by actually focusing on his home space where he held spatial, racial, you-name-it power.

Throughout the play, the – very white, fairly elderly – audience did not make much noise. The white gaze holds power in silence and there isn’t necessarily anything more to say about it. But the way the characters interacted, how race was spoken about and the tensions that brewed – specific lines – were tactful in writing and tasteful in execution. What I thought was a liberal-rhetoric-targeting, honest-race-conversing sort of production was also one wherein I gleaned guidelines on how linguistic censorship is taught, learned, and exhibited through the creative art of performance. What we seemingly have to play give-and-take with is inevitably complicated especially when politics are explicitly named; and I deeply admire how Idris both brought to light centrist liberal “I’m not racist but-” rhetoric and ensured the audience left happy. Jimmy and Kia were best-friends-forever and somehow non-verbally developed a mutual understanding[1]of what racism was now, no hard feelings. The singing and rapping was confusingly unappealing in all its out-of-tune, bouncey-dancing glory. It was realistic and unbelievable at once.

[1]And also, just for my ego? I knew Kia was gay before she even said it.

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