“Snatched: A Passage to Madness” Invites Reflection on Forgotten HistoryPosted on: February 19, 2018, by : Zach Hyatt
“You are always auditioning.”
“Who is Amilcar Cabral?”
“Bring me something.”
“This is important work–learn it.”
“Fill the room with your voice!”
“Does anyone have anything they want to show me?”
Deborah Asante, a force of nature, challenges a room full of actors, ranging from elementary-age up to 40, to know the work they are putting forth. Not only because she wants to succeed — she has, and she does — and not only because she wants them to succeed. Most importantly, Asante wants the effort her performers are investing to truly matter to them.
The “work,” an original two-act play titled “Snatched: A Passage to Madness,” returns to the Madam Walker Theatre February 22-25 after a successful run on the MWT stage last summer. The play, produced by The Asante Children’s Theatre, was written by Deborah Asante and Crystal V. Rhodes, and continues to evolve with gained knowledge and new perspectives.
“Snatched” tells the story of a group of inner city teens, plotting a come-up, a hustle, a trap game. Suddenly, the world they inhabit is gone, and they are transported into a world anew, as captives on a ship sailing from Africa during the Middle Passage, bound for the ports of the Virgin Islands, then to America. As the story unfolds, they begin to realize the everyday challenges faced in their current lives are quite trivial when compared to those of their shipmates.
The rehearsal process for “Snatched” has been a learning exercise to the actors from day one. They have been challenged to learn new things, to research information about the tribes their “transported” characters are from, and and to truly inhabit their new identities. To some involved in the production, it has been an acting class while rehearsing; to others, the experience has provided a lens into knowledge about their ancestors they might not have received elsewhere. To all involved, it has been an experience that has taught, tested and tried. Some have even learned and prepared multiple roles, while others have been asked to refine the role they played last production.
Rehearsals are called workshops, because “you are going to work,” Asante religiously tells her company. This doesn’t always mean doing scene work, blocking, or running lines. During one workshop, all cast members were divided into groups, male and females separated. For about forty minutes, they clustered together, uncomfortably close, on the ground. They were directed repeatedly, “Closer, closer closer.” The characters were then verbally abused, the actors being told things their characters likely faced in this historical situation, from physical abuse to sexual abuse, living among the dead, feces, urine, and vomit. The actors visualized babies being born, then dying, with rats feeding off the dead. Many of the actors involved in the production channeled the pain and wept. One actor shed tears — not then, in character, but on the way home, when thinking about “his race’s responsibility in this and how he had not been more empathetic to [this horror], only thinking about it from a passing glance through history.” This is character work, the actor says, and “it is every bit as important to telling a story as remembering the lines and emoting.” One can hope that if the players in this production were so powerfully impacted, so may be the audience.
This weekend will provide just that opportunity. The Asante Children’s Theatre of Indianapolis production of “Snatched: A Passage to Madness” opens with a Community Night performance this Thursday, February 22nd, at 8 PM. Ticket prices for Community Night are $5 in advance and $6 day of show. “Snatched” will then continue through the weekend, with shows Friday, Feb 23 and Saturday, Feb 24 at 8 PM, and a closing performance Sunday, Feb 25 at 4PM. Performances will be held at the Madame Walker Theatre, 617 Indiana Ave, near the IUPUI Campus, and ticket prices (excluding the opening Community Night) are $10 in advance, and $12 day of show. A question and answer session with the cast and company will follow each performance. Tickets may be purchased online at www.asantechildrenstheatre.org or at the door. The play is rated PG due to its mature themes and situations, but all are encouraged be take part in this experience and post-discussion.
Those seeking additional information may contact the Asante Children’s Theatre at email@example.com or 317.654.0264.