“Little by Little, One Travels Far”

By on 27 April, 2018 in Art, Fun, Sarah Thornton with 0 Comments

Ronald McCall and Yvette Jones-Smedley as Troy and Rose Maxson in rehearsal for “Fences” at Cloverdale Playhouse on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (Photo: Shannon Heupel/Advertiser)

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot ever fence it out.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Our current production at the Playhouse, August Wilson’s Fences, is one of our biggest undertakings yet. It is not our largest cast, nor is it our most intricate set (though the set is quite unique). The reason it is such a major endeavor is not tangible physically, but a very palpable energy and excitement around producing one of the greatest plays ever written in a time in our community and our world that illuminates its lessons in a very real way.

We open Fences the same weekend that the Equal Justice Initiative in downtown Montgomery unveils the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, America’s first national memorial dedicated to the victims of racial terror lynching, and the Legacy Museum, which explores our history of slavery and mass incarceration. These terrible, tragic parts of our nation’s history must be faced and remembered. The difficult feelings that come with acknowledging this dark part of the fabric of our past will hopefully lead to a strengthened commitment to change, equality, and justice as we move forward.

In Fences, we see a family struggling against a past. The patriarch of the family navigates deep feelings of resentment and bitterness at the injustice he has faced in his life. The wall he builds around himself because of his history only serves to breed more pain and resentment in those closest to him. The play challenges us to face our pasts and learn from them if we are ever to truly move forward and grow. In the end, August Wilson leaves us with hope for the future manifested in the children in the play.

Most thrilling, we have record-breaking numbers of student groups attending this production at the Playhouse! For many of these students, it will be their first theatrical experience. The conversations we hope this play encourages are so important, so necessary, and we are very grateful to be able to open the door to create a pathway for those discussions. Even within the Fences cast itself, we have young actors in different areas of artistic development who have had the opportunity to work alongside seasoned, professional actors who have immense amounts of knowledge and experience to share.

Naturally, we are also thinking ahead. Our next mainstage show is another large undertaking, our children’s troupe mainstage production of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. While the transition from a story such as Fences, about a family in 1957 Pittsburgh’s Hill District, to a fictional world of ogres, dwarves, and wizards may seem like quite a leap, there is one major element that connects them: the hope for the future. By moving the children’s show to the main season, the Playhouse is able to create an opportunity for students to work alongside seasoned adult actors to create a fully-realized production, complete with a full show budget, full two-week run, and all of the resources of any other play produced at the theater (and in the case of The Hobbit, large-scale puppets!). The kids are taught to take ownership of the show. They learn the responsibilities and professional skills necessary when you are part of an artistic company, and they also get to have a lot of fun bringing this classic story from the page to the stage. It is a one-of-a-kind experience! Auditions are coming up, so visit the website for all of the details!

The Cloverdale Playhouse, being a community theater, focuses our efforts on creating experiences that bring communities together. As we see the inspiring effects of the past six years manifest in our current seventh season, we are more excited than ever to look toward the future, learning from every experience that led us to this place in the journey, and to find more ways to grow. We hope you will join us!

Fences runs through May 6, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Auditions for The Hobbit will be May 19-20. Visit www.cloverdaleplayhouse.org or call the box office at (334)262-1530 for more information.

Sarah Walker Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse, who walks like a New Yorker and waves like an Alabama girl. She is a product of a Montgomery arts education, with several years of life in NYC thrown in for extra flavor.

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