Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2005

Group aims to develop stage talent

June 2, 2005

— A new local theater group is hoping to bring a new perspective to the stage, beginning with its first production next weekend.

Art In Motion, or AIM, is focused on seeking out and developing new talent in the Lansing and Leavenworth communities, especially in children and minority groups.

Lansing resident Joyce Williams is one of the driving forces behind the creation of AIM. She said her dream was to start a group that would "embellish all cultures" and one that would draw on the area's history.

The group's first play will be "The Church Meeting" by Roosevelt Wright Jr., adapted by Roxie Whitaker Dye. Dye, the director, said she was given liberty by the author to expand the play. She said she fleshed out the original one-act play to what is now 18 pages of dialogue, performed in two scenes. She said she built on and rewrote much of the dialogue, added new characters and included specific references to Leavenworth's history.

"The only thing that stayed true was the church meeting," she said.

The action in the play revolves around a bar, a church and a barbershop, which are set in downtown Leavenworth in the 1940s or '50s, Dye said. The play is humorous, Dye said, but it reflects people's duplicity.

"I hope people can see themselves and that they realize the hidden message," she said.

Dye said she included the Leavenworth references so viewers can learn more about the area where they live.

"The whole purpose of AIM is to be an educational tool, not just theater but history," she said.

Williams, who is producing the play, said she hoped that in the future, AIM would put on historical plays as well as dance and musical concerts. She said that all of the members of AIM have a theater background but she wanted to allow them to showcase their talents in different areas as well.

She said she also wanted to expand the group to include children's theater.

"There are a lot of young people who I've found out have a lot of talent," Williams said.

Williams said her vision for AIM is to become a nonprofit organization and a talent pool for children and minority actors. She said she hoped to find a permanent headquarters to run the organization and hold practices, and she said Lansing would be a prime place to station the group because there is nothing else like it in the area.

Bruce Davis, who plays the Rev. Higginbotham in "The Church Meeting," said he liked AIM's flexibility. Davis, of Lansing, has performed with the River City Community Players in Leavenworth and has also played roles in an HBO movie, "The Painting," and in an independent film. He said that because the group isn't sticking to just "the classics" in its performances, the group would build its members' range as actors.

"If that's all you do, you hit the wall, more or less," he said.

Davis said as AIM grows, it will be "mining" for new talent in both children and adults.

"Without vehicles like this, you never find out what you have or who is in the area," he said. "There are a lot of actors here, we just haven't found them yet."

The importance of having a group primarily for minorities is to expand the availability of roles for minority actors, Davis said. He said that in some theater groups, directors may want to stick closely to the playwright's vision, which in many cases may not include minorities playing lead roles because of the time period or other reasons. He used "The Wizard of Oz" as an example.

"There would not technically be a black Dorothy," he said.

Davis said he looked forward to working with AIM because it was more open to writing and producing its own members' plays and looking off the beaten path for works to perform.

"As an active member, I play a bigger role than just an actor," he said. "I have not had the opportunity to work with groups that have done that in a long time."


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