Getting There: “the road weeps…” Takes Shape

by B.E. Melendez
from the School of Theatre & Dance of The University of South Florida in Tampa, FL
Volume XI. Mar-April 2014
Assistant Costume Designer, Brittany Reuther with Tiffany Schultz who plays the part of Mary South

Assistant Costume Designer, Brittany Reuther with Tiffany Schultz who plays the part of Mary South. Photo by B. E. Melendez

The parts are cast and the full production team is in place as the fourth and final production of the road weeps, the well runs dry takes shape at the University of South Florida.

The costume shop’s sewing machines have been humming and the sounds of hammers and saws in the workshop and on the stage in Theatre I echo through the hall at the University of South Florida’s School of Theatre & Dance building complex.

The set is coming together.

Associate Professor of Design G. B. Stephens stated, “the scenic elements of the set will aid in placing the action of the play more than setting the mood or tone of the play. Aside from the coloration decisions of the scenic elements, which intentionally demonstrate the disparity of power and control of the emerged community, mood and tone will be demonstrated more in the lighting design.”

“The primary goal of scenic design is to place the action of the play, to let the audience know where and when the production is taking place. It’s my hope that the audience entering will see a stage setting that provides a hint of what is in store in the production. I want the audience to be excited about what they are about to see. The opening preset as the audience enters should suggest a hint of what is ahead.”

Things are coming together backstage.

Students in Assistant Professor Marilyn Bertch’s costume tech and design class are fitting wigs, dresses, shirts, and pants on the actors who go from looking like everyday people to striking figures fit for playwright Marcus Gardley’s epic tale.

“Melding the two cultures (African-American and Native-American) is fascinating,” Bertch said. “Quite a bit of primary research exists, so that has enabled me to get lots of creative ideas from them. Since we have so much Seminole heritage here in the Tampa area, it provides lots of research materials but also more pressure to ‘get it right.’”

The audience will be engaged.

Another feature select audiences will find before the play starts is the Festival of Stories! A storyteller will engage the audience 30 minutes prior to these performances accompanied by a panel discussion focused on the play’s themes – our esteemed playwright Gardley and director, Fanni Green , among them.

On April 13th following the show, members of each of the consortium theatrical partners who have worked on the road weeps… (LATC, Pillsbury House, Perseverance, Lark, Marcus Gardley, and Dramaturge Nakissa Etemad) will participate in a post-show discussion of the project.

The cast onstage.

All the while, the actors are rehearsing up a storm. With professional actors Perri Gaffney, Don L. Johnson, Nicole Jordan and storyteller Uwezo Sudan in the cast, Green is looking forward to what the students will learn from them.

“We work to instill professionalism in our students,” said Green who in addition to being a director is an actress and playwright. “From the importance of learning one’s lines, to showing up for rehearsals on time, and employing their craft in collaboration with others, the students are getting the added benefit of learning history and culture. Most amazing of all is being able to interact with a great living playwright, an extraordinary dramaturg, and a stellar artistic team to introduce a new and important work to the stage and the community.”

When asked, “So how’s it going, Fanni?” Green laughs robustly, as she says, “We will not weep.” Then her eyes sparkle as she muses quietly, “The joy and the challenge of the process is what we embrace. It is an honor to tell this story.”

WUSF/Studio@620 Radio Theatre Project: Reading of the road weeps, the well runs dry

 USF’s the road weeps, the well runs dry Trailer



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