Complex Performing Arts Center stages an American classic
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Feb. 3, 2014
Director Leslie Snow listened to Sarri Patterson, Emma Capron and Sebastian Zielinski read through their lines for the upcoming play, “The Member of the Wedding.” The four were couched in a small room in the Complex Performing Arts Center. Snow was paying particular attention to the rhythm of the actors’ lines.
The play is the fourth in the American Classics series. It is based on Carson McCuller’s 1946 novel, which was adapted for the stage in 1950. The main characters are 12-year-old tomboy Frankie Addams, 6-year-old John Henry West, and Berenice Sadie Brown, the family maid who raises them.
Set in the south, the play is a coming-of-age story that deals with racial and sexual identity. Snow chose the play because of its rich storytelling, descriptive voice and insight into life at the time. “It’s rich in what it gives the characters to discover about themselves and each other,” she said.
Capron, who plays Frankie, said the story action is heavily dependent on language and dialogue, as opposed to plot. “It’s like poetry,” she said.
Snow wanted to be sure that the soft Alabama rhythm found its way into her actor’s lines. “We insist actors learn the rhythm of the writing to the letter of the law,” she said. “You get the intention of the author. You get her rhythm. If you improvise too much, you have a production not written by the original author.”
Those soft-sounding lines belie the drama Frankie is caught up in as she imagines herself living with her brother and his new wife. With her mother dead, her father a distant figure, and no friends to speak of, Frankie spends most of her time with a young cousin and a family maid. The wedding becomes the promise of a new life and a promise of inclusion for Frankie.
This is the fourth American Classics Repertory Company production at CPAC. Snow has directed Robert Anderson’s “I Never Sang for My Father,” William Inge’s “Come Back, Little Sheba,” and James McClure’s “Private Wars.”
“I think the America Classics are an acquired taste,” Snow said. “This play is valuable as a play and as literature. It’s beautifully written. I think it’s important to get that stuff on stage for people to see.”
Patterson is excited about the opportunity to play Berenice. At Snow’s suggestion, she used the music of Mahalia Jackson to get into character. “Rehearsals are a process of becoming that character,” Patterson said. She’d listen to Jackson’s gospel songs, then go through her lines. “Berenice is a religious person. So am I. It becomes more than just words.”
Capron said she tapped into her own experiences growing up to prepare for the role of Frankie. “When I read the play I thought it was my entire life,” she said. “I understand what she’s going through. She’s an odd child. She’s stuck between being a kid and being an adult. I remember that time. I was that kid, that quirky child, that odd ball out.”
Snow calls all three characters iconic. “The play has power that hasn’t been revealed,” she said. “I know it, but no one else does. When they perform it they will have a discovery that they’ve never had before.”
Performances will be held Feb. 7, 8, 14 and 15, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for seniors/students and $18 for adults. Call 860-963-7170 for reservations and information.