From Office Admin. Intern Cassidy. (Meet Cassidy in this blog post.)
The end of February saw our annual Winter Sort of Thing put on at Venice Island Performing Arts center, and in case you missed it, I’m here to tell you what I thought.
The kids in Winter Sort of Thing put on the most surreal musical I’ve ever personally seen. I instantly thought that there were so many dynamic layers to the concept of the musical which, coupled with the simply designed set and costumes made for a feeling of ease and yet a lot to think about. This was my first Sort of Thing and I was blown away.
The story about Colliwomple, a town repressed through a disallowance of music, singing, dancing and general thought-stimulating fun, was made a working piece of art not only through the kids’ fresh and excited acting, but also through the detail-oriented and well thought-out songs. Every musical piece was timed and performed with only necessity to the story in mind. Sandwiched between two main numbers were a lot of smaller pieces centered around one word or sound at a time. The most interesting aspect of the musical was the purposeful integration of music and rhythm into the regular dialogue, and interruption of scenes by the smaller musical asides, showing that even in a repressed society, hope naturally seeps into communication.
My personal favorite part is the opening after intermission when the kids see what is on the other side of their town. The set is made up simply, but lit beautifully and decorated with ethereal elements that show perfectly the surrealist quality I found so interesting, as well as the boundless creativity of the Winter Sort of Thing kids.
Having helped with technical and monetary necessities in weeks leading up to opening night, I was pleased to see it go on so well, and excited to finally witness a show put on by Yes! And… kids. The final show of Saturday night even faced a completely full, almost overflowing theater, which made us truly proud.
Many thanks to everyone who came out to see the performance and supported our kids!
One of the most popular questions we have about our Winter Sort of Thing shows is how we pick the themes and topics we’ll explore in this year’s production. While our Artistic Director Brooke Sexton is mostly to credit, we all get to mine and explore and enjoy (as artists) the themes she thinks up.
For me, the theme of The Song of Silence is in direct relationship to the times we are living in. It takes the concept of a “wall” and then teases it out to its natural conclusion. One of the things that makes old Colliwomple a “great” town is how much activity it has. The town is situated at a popular crossroads and everyone loves coming in and out, staying for a while, and moving on. When some of the town’s young people begin to leave, seek their fame and fortune outside of Colliwomple’s borders, some of the town feared a mass migration. This fear led to the wall. For a time the safety of the isolation was welcome by the older residents. Then it became “just the way it is” until a group of kids started asking “why.”
For us, working with kids, we realize that they are the best at asking “why.” Why are things the way they are? De we have to keep doing it that way? Kids are natural dreamers and, if we listen to their dreams, we can find inspiration. For those of us in this work, these kids inspire us every day.
All of our shows are told through the lens of these young people. We think that, while many of the stories we tell with them have universal themes, there is a particular gift the audience receives from seeing the world through their eyes. This story would not be the same if it were a bunch of older people, stuck in their ways, full of fear themselves. We definitely trade on the passion, and unearned confidence of these youth to see that a better world is possible – in Colliwomple – and here too. This isn’t a group of actors pretending to be young, this experience is watching young people, giving them agency, and watching them succeed with a huge story. As a program, we are so proud of the ways in which they take risks, go big, and learn new skills. As a performance, we think that a wide audience will enjoy watching a story well told, and relevant for the times we live in.
Check out this new video from one of our teen Shadow cast members: