Edited Down to This – CrossCurrents

By Crystal Wood

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Last night was my first experience at the CrossCurrents play-reading series at Factory Theatre that Megan caught earlier this week. With a series of one-night-only works in progress, you can never be too sure of what you’re in for. I am happy to report that last night, we weren’t disappointed.
Something you don’t get too often in theatre is “ripped from the headlines” subject matter. By the time you get a script and a budget, the issue’s already 4 years old. Michael Miller’s Edited Down to This, however, deals with a pretty timely issue: the Afro-Centric school debate that has been all over Toronto’s newspapers. (the play is also referred to as “White Elephant.” In fact, Miller addressed the audience to ask which title they prefer for his piece. Call *Factory Theatre to vote!)

The one-man show is essentially a conversation between an African-American father and a White school principal, addressing issues of student neglect in schools, racist teachers and parenting choices that are called in question by paranoid (often times bigoted) school officials. The script is smart and tight, moving along at a nice clip, although it often turned into the father’s memories and personal traumas instead of focusing on the children at hand. As with a “workshopped reading,” the actor was not entirely off-book, which I personally find a little distracting, but Jamie Robinson did a fantastic job with the character of the concerned father to an eight-year-old girl.

However, my show partner (let’s call her J) said to me, “It’s a two-person conversation with only one person. That’s weird.” Yes, it is. Robinson speaks to the unseen white principal for the entire show, and even though Jamie Robinson can carry an impregnated silence like nobody’s business, we still wanted to hear what the other person was saying. Robinson’s character fills us in with responses like “Obama? Who said anything about Obama?” but it doesn’t quite feel like enough. It’s neither a traditional monologue, nor is the audience really treated like we are the principal. It’s sort of just a hole onstage where a person could be.

We were sad to see a small house show up for the play, (It’s just a little rain, people!) but the response from others was very positive. I overheard one woman passionately trying to convince her show partner that Miller should distribute his play in schools, both to students and officials.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that both mine and J’s favourite part of the show was the Alice-in-Wonderland style crazy-door backdrop. This is no reflection on the script, simply a factor of our short-term attention spans. But it had to be said.

Details
CrossCurrents ends today, with a reading of ahdri zhina mandiela‘s who knew grannie? at 2:30pm. Catch it if you can; say “hi” to me if you do!
Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street
– Tickets: $10, available at the door.

0 thoughts on “Edited Down to This – CrossCurrents”

  1. It’s interesting that you found that the actors weren’t off book distracting. Personally I stop noticing pretty quickly into a reading that they’re reading from a script.

    But yeah, all cross-currents stuff is generally on-book.

    I’m not for a second surprised about the small audience though – CrossCurrents is unfortunately not a HUGELY known festival outside of theatre circles, so it’s already a pretty small pool of audience to choose from – add into that a thunderstorm and whamo, no audience. It is a shame though.

  2. actually, i saw the entire run of the festival. only 3 nights out of the 9-day festival weren’t sold out or didn’t have a full house. but for the other 6 days, it was full, full, full. sometimes, over full.

  3. @nininsky – I’m glad to hear that. I did notice that the houses were much bigger than last year for the couple I managed to get to this year. It was nice to see.

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