Saturday, April 27, 2019

Eric Conway: Theatre Morgan presents Anne & Emmett - A MUST SEE!!!

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Last night,  I had the pleasure of attending the opening-night performance of the superb production of Anne & Emmett written by Janet Langhart Cohen and directed by Reggie Phoenix.

This is the imagined story of Anne Frank and Emmett Till meeting in a place called “memory”.  At first, one might think these two important characters in our world history are rather disparate, but the similarities of their lives and demises are abundant.   Both characters were killed as teenagers.  Both were pre-judged while alive based on their religion or race, rather than the content of their character.  Both posthumously became icons of both the Holocaust in Western Europe and racial hatred in America, respectively.   The play also suggests that "we must never forget our past!”  As long as these characters remain in our memory, they will never be lost.

Everything  about this production I believe was excellent.  This was newly-hired Theatre faculty member Reggie Phoenix’s first Theatre Morgan straight play, who gave excellent direction to the cast.  The lighting and set worked together to support the production, as principals came in and out of the light brilliantly for the audience to focus on their dialogue. Although not a musical, the peripheral music helped to support the action on the stage. Each and every one of the actors totally embodied their respective characters convincingly.

After an enthusiastic ovation for the performers at the end of the show, a post-performance dialogue was held onstage, where the audience and cast were given an opportunity to reflect on what was just heard and share their comments or ask questions regarding the performance to the four principal actors on hand.  Because the main characters were both Jewish and Black, we had a very diverse audience.  Throughout the play, one could feel the Jewish members empathize with the character of Anne Frank and Black audience members empathize with the character of Emmett Till.  Simultaneously, many Jewish member were learning more about the abominations of Emmett Till and many Blacks were learning more about the atrocities of the Holocaust era.  The story of Anne Frank is more widely-known since her father published her diaries which is often required reading in high school curricula (I read it in tenth grade).  The story of Emmett Till was certainly in the forefront of this nation’s consciousness during the civil rights era, however, as we have gotten farther away from that horrid killing, Emmett’s death is not remembered or taught in schools as it should.

I am strongly encouraging everyone to attend this play - Anne & Emmett.    We discovered during the post-performance discussion that many millennials are only vaguely familiar with the story of Emmett Till, IF, they know anything about him at all.  Many millennials surprisingly, are taught less and less about the Holocaust in schools, and certainly are not always required to read Anne Frank’s diaries nowadays.

This play must be seen by absolutely everyone, but especially if you are Jewish or Black!  We are all so comfortable with our lives, that we often forget how we have gotten to this point.  This play will remind you of our respective heritages.  I wish this could be a convocation for all of the Morgan campus to see!   The subject matter for me is personal, because when I was in college, I backpacked through Europe with a friend, Michael Epstein, and we visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam - an experience that changed my life in many ways!

Performances go through Saturday, May 4, 2019, (see flyer attached with the specific times).  The show is held in Turpin-Lamb Theatre in the Murphy Fine Arts Center.  Also see some photos of the performance with a copy of the playbill.  In fact, tonight, April 27 at 7:30, the playwright will be on hand to lead in a post-performance discussion!  

Please try to make your way to this production if you are able.  It is only about ninety minutes in length, without intermission.  Good theatre makes one reflect.  This is certainly good theatre!


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