‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ A Douglas Anderson Theatre Department Review


The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts opened “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” on October 11, which continues during October 17 – 20, 2018. The play is based on the works of Norwegian writers Christian Asbjornsen and Jorgen Engebretsen Moe, who collected Scandinavian folktales and began publishing them in 1842.

DA’s production is one of the most unique and entertaining we have ever seen. The characters are those found in many fairy tales and legends: a beautiful young girl, an ensorcelled prince, evil trolls, frightened villagers, and a lumbering giant bear, along with puppets. Modern audiences will recognize elements of the story in the classical Greek myth of “Beauty and the Beast” and the contemporary “Beauty and the Beast.”

What makes this an extraordinary production is its creation as devised theatre (which, in the words of English director John Walton, is “a process in which the whole creative team develops a show collaboratively.”) While DA’s Michael Higgins directed it, he states in the program that his major role was “to keep the channels of creativity open.”

The framework was provided by six members of New York City’s Strangemen Theatre Company; puppets and masks were crafted by James Ortiz, a founding member. The group arrived in Jacksonville with a simple printed short story, and spent the next two weeks working with the ensemble cast of fifteen DA students and the crew to develop the script, music, dances, narration, lighting – everything needed to translate words into performance.

Before the show began, the stage filled with cast members dancing together in pairs, separated but also attached to each other by shared long slender rods held between them with the tips of their fingers, while dipping, turning, and swirling for almost thirty minutes. We were captivated by this ethereal scene, along with the rest of the audience. The show itself ran for an action-packed hour, with the full cast on stage in many scenes. We’re recommending this production, which is an immersive visually stunning theatrical experience.

The program provides full bios of the actors, although character roles are not included. The actors included Alyvia Anderson, Emma Bailey, Kane Carter, Sanaa Chambers, Jade Collins, Sirena De La Rosa, Ross Dobbins, Lydia Hanson, Dwayne Hayes, James Joy, Leilani Knowles, Mickenzie Lee, Daniel McCollum, Cameron Schmitt, and Ethan Venzon. The program also includes bios of the Strangemen Theatre Company members, whose presence was made possible by the generosity of The Douglas Anderson Foundation.

This production’s dedicated creative team included Michael Higgins (Director), Jennifer Kilgore (Technical Director), Nolan O’Dell (Scenic Design) Susan Peters (Scenic Charge Artist). The Technical Heads were Jessica Wojcik (Technical Director) Brooks Davenport (Deck Head), Sydney Boyd (Props Head) Alexis Szczukowski (Costume Head) Tiki Matthews (Paint Head) Myra Gaiter (Sound Head), and Kennedy Schubert (Master Electrician).

The show is in the Black Box Theatre; seating is limited so reservations are a must. For tickets, visit www.datheatreboosters.org or call the Box Office at 904-346.5620 x 122.


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.