Angela Williams, Jomaris Dejesus, & Jo Valor. Photo: Holly Stone
We. Are. Here.
An Original LFL Production
Devising Director: Jennifer Thalman Kepler
Directed by Kathi E.B. Ellis
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
There are not too many theater companies that would have the cojones to produce and perform a living, breathing, play. I am sure that you are reading that first sentence and thinking that I have gone off the deep end. I assure you I have not. Looking for Lilith’s final production of the 2017-2018 season is indeed a living, breathing, play in that the dialogue and communication that is set within is so topical and current that the verses could be changed within the space and time of the show’s delivery.
For the purposes of this particular production of We. Are. Here. LFL focuses on the intertwined lives of four families whose interactions lie within the structure of school and community. The play begins with the cast busily walking around the stage, looking at their cell phones and hardly noticing anything or anyone around them, while overhead the audience is inundated with the sounds of text messaging and rings and a litany of phrases that will be used later on within the play, such as “American as apple pie,” “respect,” and “race has no borders,” among others.The voice dubs become so frenzied that it is cacophonic.
When the noises fade we are introduced to the first family: brash and bold police officer George (Shannon Woolley Allison) has just shared something on social media that raises the ire of his daughter Mila (Jane Embry Watts), a teacher at the local high school, who happens to be a lesbian, unbeknownst to her father. Respect and tolerance are not part of George’s make-up.
Isabel (Jo Valor), a high school student, and her mother Maricela (Jomaris Dejesus) are busy working while being interrogated by their Pro-Trump supervisor inquiring about their documentation and want to be in America. Maricela assures her supervisor that they have the required Temporary Protected Status documents from El Salvador, as well as their Abuelita (Angela Williams), that allow them to live and work in the United States. Our second family lives in fear of ICE.
Meanwhile, our high school’s assistant principal Angelique (Ms. Williams) is being interviewed for the principal position but is instead dealing with a veil of racial profiling. Her son Marcus (Adama Abramson) addresses the issue during the big football game as he takes a knee instead of standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Our third family fights for self-preservation and the perils of being young, gifted, and black.
William (Ms. Allison) approaches his mother Karen (Ms. Abramson) and father Richard (Ms. Watts) to talk about the incident at the football game. While William is looking for acceptance and understanding, he is instead met by parents who are believers in the Second Amendment, and also bigoted and clueless.
Within the scope of We. Are. Here. these four families are addressing issues that we, as a country and global citizens, have addressed and/or are addressing as I type this: Women’s Rights and the Pussy Hat Revolution, LGBTQ and Racial Equality, Immigration, the Parkland Massacre and Active Shooter Drills. Scary times indeed.
I believe that LFL did well in approaching these topics with due diligence and respect. Research was done and introspection was presented. Again, these are topics that are not easily discussed within a circle of friends, much less on a public stage.
While all of the actors did a great job of weaving themselves in and out of the multiple characters they played, I’ll have to give special notice to Jane Embry Watts who navigated her roles with aplomb, especially as the teacher who showed genuine love and affection towards the children that she taught.
Design and Production did an admirable job of moving We. Are. Here. to the Wyatt Center’s Black Box Theater, generously offered by Bellarmine University, after the roof-top fire that caused water and smoke damage throughout the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Our Arts community is like a family when catastrophes occur. Within the dramatization, the lighting was effectual, as was the use of a minimal amount of staging/props. As to the sound cues, there were times that the actors were late in reaction to them, but all in all, those were few in number.
It can be said that this awareness is a new normal and LFL is addressing it as an Artist would: without apology or explanation. In the end, our high school students are ready to change the world, while the adults are holding on to the present. So, whose fight is it? I’d like to know, too.
We. Are. Here.
Looking for Lilith Theatre Company
Wyatt Center for the Arts
Norris Place & Bellarmine Blvd.
Louisville, KY 40205
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.