June 7th, 2011
Arts AdvocateRegina Trilling
A Powerful Performance...
My first offering for the Arts Advocate "Blog"concerns a thrilling one-man show I chanced upon.
I was on my way through Saint Louis back on May 19th, a bustling little urban zone, positively riven with delightful restaurants and pubs. Maplewood, a suburb of sorts, not far from downtown, offers the Schlafly Brewery, with a range of bold ales, and the Kakao Chocolateer, which is a Valhalla for Chocolate-Lovers. In fact, if you are a "Chocoholic," best avoid this quaint and humming shop altogether! You will not be able to escape without substantial purchases involving dark chocolate "Bark," and the devastatingly good "Sea Salt Caramels." I may have to return to Maplewood (even though I am currently south of Missouri's state line) to reacquire some of those enticing delicacies.
But, I digress. Having the evening to spend in quaint Maplewood, my travelling companion noticed a modest poster for a one-man show: "The Script: Addressing the issues of Dating Violence and Sexual Assault." Not typical subject matter for your everyday one-person performance. We took a gamble on it, and I can report only this: This may be the most important one-person show you'll ever see.
Tim Collins is a superlative performer, and his cagey, taut, forty minute performance was both mesmerizing and profound. The venue, The Stone Spiral, a hippie-era-aura kind of deliciously low-key coffee house (with a discreet and helpful staff, and very good mocha lattes), was utterly transformed by Collins' enthralling intensity, such that, when the young performer paused, for effect, in the midst one of his utterly convincing character's urgent, terse monologues, you could, nearly, hear a tear drop. And many a tear was shed by the attentive and grateful audience, who stood for a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of this valuable piece of educational theater.
The Script concerns four teenage (or college age) young men who grapple with a situation that their mutual friend finds herself in; a fellow student has become a victim of sexual violence. Again, I am struck by how incongruous a topic this is for a one-man show...many of the "solo shows" I have attended (in Chicago, primarily), have been relatively self-serving affairs, autobiographical journeys through the actor/writer's past, or exaggerated flights of fancy. Collins' manages to create a theater piece that is vital and entertaining, dealing with (sadly) very real issues, but in a capacity that is both full of passion and humor. The humor, unexpected as it was, serves as a gentle balm to the cutting seriousness of the topic; Collins' show imparts important lessons, but he at no point becomes pedantic. Each character is lovingly portrayed, and their struggles, even when the characters are lost in their own various misunderstandings or wrong-thinking, become the audience's struggles. How can we help? How can we work to build a world that thrives and flourishes on strong foundations of respect and understanding, and not give way to hatred, violence, and cynicism? Collins' show asks questions, then asks of the audience: What can we all do to live in a more compassionate manner?
I understand that Collins' show is intended for high school and college age students (as indicated by his thoughtful artist's statement in the show program), but this powerful theater piece is certainly relevant, and, I might add, necessary, for adults. I did not have a chance to converse with Mr. Collins after the performance (he was fairly thronged with admirers), but I wish him well and will keep close watch over his further doings. An important show, and a lovely and auspicious beginning to the "Arts Advocate Journey" to encounter art and culture on these American roads.