In “Rest Stop Political Theatre,” Wandering Aesthetics collaborates with Gum-Dip Theatre and Ma ’Sue Productions to explore the citizenry’s views about the process and privilege of voting in America.
The three theatre companies, with the support of Citizen University and Knight Foundation, began the project with an open call for submissions with the theme of “The Joy of Voting.” They compiled the selected submissions and the result is a series of thoughtful and thought-provoking scenes.
Wandering Aesthetics’ Benjamin Rexroad directs “Rest Stop” and his cast includes WA co-artistic director Kyle Jozsa, Gum-Dip’s Katie Beck and Ma ’Sue’s John Dayo-Aliya, as well as local actor Mercedes Littell. Together they invite audience members to join them for a unique outdoor theatre experience performed on and around the back of a pickup truck.
In one scene called “The Joy of Voting,” we are treated to poetry comprised of the voices of young immigrants, some eager to one-day exercise their new rights, others hopeful for change but skeptical after a lifetime of violence and fear.
While “Rest Stop” tackles some pretty complicated issues, that doesn’t mean it can’t have fun. Other scenes incorporate improv, devised theatre, sketch comedy, folk music, trips back to the 90’s and down the rabbit hole and crowd participation (but only if you want to).
Said Rexroad of the participatory nature of the production, “We have moments in the show where members of the audience can get up and talk about it, or they can interact using sidewalk chalk or by singing along to the songs.” Rexroad added that throughout the rehearsal process he has encouraged actors to incorporate the audience into the show rather than see them merely as passive spectators.
At a recent “Rest Stop” rehearsal, cast members gave me a preview of the show. Being in on their process, if only for an evening, was fascinating. The type of theatre they are creating requires a high level of trust between performers, some of whom had never met before rehearsals began, and that trust was evident. I also saw in the ensemble passion, commitment to the work and an onstage chemistry that cannot be simulated.
Jozsa, critically acclaimed and Arts Alive-winning local actor whose storytelling performances have earned him a hefty local following, moves seamlessly from one character to the next and is often the character who leads the audience from story to story with his soulful use of movement and song.
Gum-Dip’s Artistic Director and Knight Arts Challenge winner Beck is delightful. She is a natural at physical comedy and her timing is superb. She’s not just funny, though. As a political wonk attempting a bait and switch to sell her candidate (Cthulhu), Beck delivers a spot on parody of the kind of insincere pandering double-talk that has caused a great many millennials to disengage from the process.
Dayo-Aliya, Ma ‘Sue’s Artistic Director and a gifted actor, writer, filmmaker and musician, is a mighty presence and his intensity is palpable. He sings the protest-era folk songs like gospel spirituals, evoking a sense of the despondence felt by those often failed by the process.
Littell, who makes her way back to the stage after a few years away, is exuberant and funny. Her portrayal of the March Hare in the “Alice in Wonderland”-inspired scene “The Tea Party” is playful, gleeful fun.
Before ending my time with the ensemble, I asked them what they wanted folks to know about the show.
Said Dayo-Aliya in response, “This show is very fun, but it is also attempting to ask questions, but in new, fun, innovative ways. It’s an honor to be a part of this.”
The great thing about “Rest Stop” is that as an audience member it was possible to walk away feeling as though, as opposed merely watching, I had
been a part of the show, too.
To learn more about “Rest Stop” and the “#JoyofVoting” project go to www.watheatre.com/reststop.
“REST STOP POLITICAL THEATRE” WILL TAKE PLACE:
October 1st @ 6:30 PM*
At Downtown Akron Artwalk
Hosted by Summit Artspace
140 E. Market St. • Akron, OH 44308
(This performance will be held in the parking lot. If it rains, the performance will happen in Summit Artspace’s 2nd floor event space.)
October 1st @ 8:00 PM*
After The Poetry Challenge 2016
Hosted by Bluff Blue Door Gallery
152 Bluff St. • Akron, OH 44304
*A volunteer will be on hand at each performance to give audience members the opportunity to register to vote.
“REST STOP” SCENES:
“The Joy of Voting”
By Gloria, Jose, Beti, Victor, Lulu, Beth, Gabriella, Juan, and Lupita (ESL students/migrant workers in Ohio)
“Voting isn’t Cool”
By Chad Weaver
“School of Thought”
By Mark Harvey Levine
By Jillian Renee Seevers
“The Tea Party”
By Shirley King
“Strange Aeons and Free Hot Dogs”
By John Weagly
“I Write America”
By Katie Beck, John Dayo-Aliya, Mercedes Littell & Kyle Jozsa
This post sponsored by SummitLive365.com: