by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Students from the Players by the Sea School of the Arts under the direction of Barbara Colaciello presented a one performance staged reading of local playwright Kelby Siddons’ latest play, “War Paint” on Saturday May 11.
As critics, we usually don’t review staged readings since more often than not they are works in progress. The Players’ production incorporated an unusual approach and we therefore felt it merited a review.
Since the play is a work in progress for Ms. Siddons, we will only briefly mention the plot. “War Paint” is about teenagers and although it includes themes of interest to adult theatre goers, it will be much more popular with young adults.
The story is set at night in the woods at a summer camp. The camp session is ending and several campers have joined their counselors to play a game called “War Paint”. The game is not a scheduled camp function, but is an activity the campers participate in voluntarily, and they’re excited about it; they expect to remember this night for the rest of their lives. The night is pitch black and all the participants have flashlights, which provide the only illumination.
The counselors have hidden large cans of washable paint in varied colors throughout the forest. The objective of the game is for the campers to find the cans and smear their faces with paint; we suppose the winner is the one who emerges from the darkness with the most colorfully transformed face.
The searchers move in varied groupings, and we hear conversations among them about relationships, friendships, trust, and other troubling teen issues and problems, as they struggle to prepare for challenges of the future, which is the main theme of the play as we perceived it.
Most staged readings we have attended have furnishings that are limited to folding chairs and music stands that hold the scripts. The actors stand to read, and stage movement is limited. Ms. Colaciello approached this reading in a much different way. First, she used the existing platform set in Players Studio Theatre. The set has an elevated curved stage, which was first used in the recent Player’s production of “Passing Strange” (which was also directed by Ms. Colaciello).
The actors had their scripts in hand to read, but with a twist. The direction had a great deal of movement in and out of the forest, with the actors using only flashlights to read their scripts and traverse the darkened stage, while following the director’s blocking instructions . The entire cast did a remarkable job with all aspects of the production, as they remained energetically engaged and in character throughout.
After the reading ended, complete, the students gathered on stage, along with playwright Siddons and feedback was encouraged. Both audience and cast members made a number of insightful comments and suggestions.
What happens next? Ms. Siddons may incorporate some of the suggestions, and do some revision and rewriting. Another reading or a script ready for production may be in the future.
The students put a lot of time and effort into this production and it shows. They included Pressly Pratt, Daniel Parkulo, Sandy Drezner, Carmen Burbridge, Liam Gentry, Kelvy Alter, Wendy Parkulo, Jack Dunaway and Eliza Koren.
The Players by the Sea School of the Arts is open to all, and although it is at Jacksonville Beach in the Players by the Sea Theatre, a number of students live in other parts of North Florida. Summer Camp offerings begin in June; call 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org for additional information.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM