Director Fanni Green Engages the Community In and Around USF

by B.E. Melendez
from the School of Theatre & Dance of The University of South Florida in Tampa, FL
Volume VII. May-July 2013

At the heart of the road weeps, the well runs dry is the telling of a story that has been neglected in the United States’ sense of itself. In fact, you couldn’t ask for a more “all-American” story: the intersection of Freedmen and Seminole Native Americans in 1800s Florida.

Upon her return from her trip from Alaska’s Perseverance Theatre to see the production in its first staged incarnation, Professor Fanni Green, who will direct the fourth and final production of the play – in this consortium series, tuned into the “mythic nature” of Marcus Gardley’s story, its “universality” and the need, especially for, “skillful handling of Gardley’s poetic language,” she said. “The characters are real people whose everyday lives became history, and the importance of the staged telling of their history, becomes larger than their lives.”

“The story of two peoples and two communities struggling to live as one is as much about the physical world they live in, the music they sing, the religion and customs they retain and adopt, the love they share and deny, as it is about two communities of people whose lives also exist inside the fabric of U.S. history.  Seeing it on the Perseverance stage, made me celebrate the challenge of the plays mythic, historical, and personal planes,” she said. “This is what excites me about the power of this play.”

Green seeks to impart some of this sensibility to three distinct communities in and around USF: seniors, veterans and community radio listeners in a series of workshops devoted to storytelling.

“I will be sharing excerpts from the road weeps… and encouraging workshop participants to recall and write about their experiences and history of being members of varied communities,” she said, describing how she will use improvisation, theatre games, readings and writing exercises.  “We’ll play, write, talk, and sing – create our own storytelling commune.

“I will ask them to think about when they knew they were part of a community,” she added.  “I want them to recollect and share what rites of passage brought them in. Marcus’s play is especially helpful in this regard. An example in the play is seen when the Native grandfather tells a 16-year-old boy the story of his ancestors just before the teen embarks on his ‘vision quest.’ Stories are in our DNA – since time immemorial.  People’s stories identify them, give them a place to be from, and enrich their families and their communities as well as help them see themselves in a new light at times.”

Exciting workshops include Storytelling Workshops which involves a senior living community in Tampa, and Professor Green will bring workshops to the residents of University Village which is a retirement center. Veterans from all aspects of the military are invited to participate in Voices of Recovery, a program that has been involved with theater and mental illness.

“Makes you wish you lived in the Tampa bay area, right?  Inside of the summer storms and the bright hot sunshine, we’ll be telling stories,” Green said.

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