ACTF praises "Out of the Dark"
By Cheryl Anderson Brown
(Top) The artwork for the show poster.
Artwork and photos by Jamie Bullins
Audiences at the November 2007 performances of the “Out of the Dark” reported feeling cramped and uncomfortable on the tightly packed wooden benches used for seating. Many of them left with mud on their hands. And, they loved every minute of it!
Set in the dark, claustrophobic world of coal mining, this original ethnographic production brought audiences as close to the real feeling of a coal mine as is possible in small black box theater.
Reviewers from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival called the production “an important work of performance ethnography.” Lauding the cast, crew and director Hannah Blevins Harvey, who conducted the primary research for the piece with 20 coal miners and their families, the reviewers said they did an “outstanding job of creating an environmental play” in an “appropriately uncomfortable environment that contributed to the idea of the play while aiding in the storytelling.”
One ACTF reviewer praised the sets, costumes, lighting and actors. “Across the board, every member contributed well to this ensemble and they seemed very much at ease and confident with each other.” The reviewer particularly applauded the work of student actors Dru Jamieson (“his honesty and simplicity on the stage are undeniable, and very hard to look away from”) and John Tucker (“his straightforward approach and openness to the audience drew us in”).
One reviewer offered “the highest praise I can give a design team” for completely integrating scenic elements, lighting, props, sound and costumes into the production. “From the moment I entered the space I knew exactly where I was
... the use of real dirt and mud added the sense of smell to the experience.” One reviewer praised student designers Dorisz Tatar for the carved foam rock walls, Ben Tilley for the less-is-more lighting, and Jennifer Martinez, whose costume choices demonstrated “good research and execution.”
Finally, they complimented first-time stage manager Lark Hylton, who called the show by ear because she couldn’t see the actors—“I am impressed!”—and thanked KSU for providing thoughtful dramaturgical notes in the program.