Examining everything from the particular issues of a young adult in the ghetto to the typical problems of college kids, the Black Theatre Ensemble used its Spring Festival to focus on one theme: the hope that has the potential to spring eternal. In two student-written one-act plays, BTE addressed the basic issue of where to find hope when it seems like there is none, or how to move from complacency and apathy to action. Even when those attempts don’t directly succeed, neither performance allows the audience to leave the theater
Dominating the stage in “Rose Out of the Pavement,” written by Rebecca Nicholson, was Randolph Carr, CC ’13, as Little Man, a college-aged kid sitting on the streets of the ghetto all night, listening to the symphony of sirens, the pops of gunshots, and the curses flying between husbands and wives. His character is a consistent mystery, offering moments of reasoned clarity between puffs of a joint, while at other times descending into petulant brawling over a slight offense. Accompanying Little Man is his Mama, played by the spirited Uzunma Udeh, CC ’12, who, although dead, acts as his conscience and guardian angel, hoping that he can break through the barriers that surround him.
By the ending, Little Man, having found a girl to spend time with, resolves to get his GED certificate and find himself a job rather than just sitting around. Although the empty, black stage seemed to foretell a bleak outcome, upon seeing the end, one cannot help but feel that it is possible to grow, even in such a terrible place.
In the second play, “It’s Fine,” written by Mae Smith, CC ’14, the focus rapidly shifts to universal questions of personal acceptance, familial interaction, and relationship stability. Throughout the act, which takes place during spring break, each of the four characters needs to fulfill the challenge of the versatile Isaiah New, CC ’14, playing Gabriel. He asks each of them, including himself, to address one of their insecurities or instabilities.
Gabriel comes out to his parents, while his friend Sebastian, played by Keith Williams, CC ’14, addresses his rivalry with a high school classmate. Maddy, played by Sarah Andebrhan, CC ’14, must end her doomed relationship with an engaged man, and Aimee, played by Priya Anita, CC ’14, is required to rethink her hypercritical nature concerning men. Although each character used excessive internal monologue mid-conversation, the play came to the striking conclusion: Everyone has the same basic problems, even when the initial incidents are not identical. And, even though every character finds it difficult to change, each one resolves to keep trying to improve together.
While many of the actors performing in these plays were standing on a Columbia stage for the first time, there were no moments of dissonance. Furthermore, seeing both performances one after the other only enhances the respect for the Ensemble, which, through only two acts, so accurately depicted both the ever-present possibility for pain and suffering and the eternal spring of hope from which all things may grow.