THEATRE REVIEW: “ARTS OR CRAFTS” AT J.U.

           The drama department of Jacksonville University’s College of Fine Arts presented the Florida Premier of Rob Roznowski’s “Arts or Crafts” for a four day run Feb 19-22 2015 in the Swisher Theatre on the Arlington Campus of JU.

          “Arts or Crafts” might seem like an unusual name for a play but this is not a traditional play but a collection of monologues and skits exploring in a unique and often humorous way, the concept that crafts are functional or are arts are decorative? ?

          This was a very special even for JU as the playwright himself came to Jacksonville to direct this play together with Producer/JU Artist Director Deborah Jordan.

          In addition to using the works in his published script (North Maine Publishing, LLC), Mr. Roznowski created some original scripts relating to life here in Jacksonville. Ms. Jordan and Mr. Roznowski have known each other for a number of years through their occupations in the arts and this is what enabled his visit and this excellent collaboration.

          The eight JU students who played twenty or more roles (I lost count) were listed in the program: Emilee Estep, Adda Laplacliere Fuenmayor,Lexi Inks, Adam Keller, Cierra London, Sarah Pamplin, Brandon Paris, and Jamil Adjur-Rahman. These eight performed to perfection and were obviously enjoying the demanding challenge of all those lines to learn, the intricate blocking involved in doing 30 scene changes in 90 minutes. What an opportunity of a lifetime for a performer to have the chance to play in the course of one evening so many different characters, using variety of accents and changing into colorful costumes frequently.

         This was a very professional production, from top to bottom. It started with Set and Lighting Design by Brandon Lettow. The entire large Swisher Stage was used. At each end were armories where costumes were hung, and shelves used for props in the show. Center stage carpeted circular risers where most of the action place. Behind this were three large video screens used to project the titles of each skit before it was performed.

        The many costumes were the creation of Costumer Curtis William, who also contributed some choreography for some of the scenes that required it

       To quote from the Norman Main Plays website: This fast –paced interactive show takes a comical look at the thin line that often separates “ art” from “craft”. Each skit had an intriguing title. Some of them were “Plum or Plumb”, “Boobs or Boos” “Hyperbole or Hyper-Bal”, “Fable or Feeble”. Well, you get the idea.

       One of my favorites concern the origin of hobbies, with the idea that hobbies of all types were conceived by people in every generation and country because they were bored, bored, bored.

      “Fair or Fare” was about a couple who offers a street dancer one dollar for a performance. After an elaborate exhausting display of dancing prowess, the female partner of the couple, takes back the dollar, saying she did not like the dance.

          One of the original skits about Jacksonville, was not listed in the program, but concerned MOCA. Two ladies were discussing the merits of nude pictures and if they were pornography. They took out an I-pad and googled “Disgusting nude photo in Jacksonville” and up came a photo on display of the wall of MOCA. You had to be there to appreciate this skit, very funny and well done.

           A final note about the content of the show. Before Act II, cast members briefly came out with their impressions of the staff that put this show together, like Ms Jordan, Mr. Roznowski, etc. These were hilarious. Also included was a theatre critic, namely yours truly played by an actress who shall remain unnamed but who will in future productions always get fine reviews. Thanks for being so kind.

          A final kudos to Stage Manager Kate Cunningham, who kept all that stage madness always on time and moving in the right direction.

          At the intermission, the audience had the opportunity in the lobby to part take of creating some art themselves and to have it brought up on stage during act two and be judged by the audience as either “art” or “craft”. His drawing of a valentine type heart was voted as art. This was a hilarious bit as well.

         I can’t say that this theatre critic is any more knowledgeable about the difference between Art or Craft, all I know is it was a fun and truly interesting evening of theatre, one of many I have seen on the Swisher stage over the years. The bad news is that this only played one weekend. The good news is that none of the actors in this show are seniors so the public will have the rest of this year and next to see their remarkable talents. If you missed this, you missed a good one.

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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