Photo-Walden Theatre Alumni Company
Camerado, I Give You My Hand
Adapted and performed by Melinda Beck, Benjamin Wells Parks & Gracie Taylor
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
A Walden Theatre Alumni company has been a part of the company’s history for several years, but it was for a long time a fluid roster of former students mounting estimable productions of good plays during their summer break from college. More recently, under the stewardship f Benjamin Wells Park, who now teaches at Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players, the group has become a loose congregation of artists developing an overtly experimental aesthetic.
This devised production, liberally using the free verse of Walt Whitman, is a good example of that aesthetic. A blend of theatre and performance art, it defies synopsis. Three actors (Melinda Beck, Benjamin Wells Park & Gracie Taylor) dressed in white t-shirts and jeans, move through a starkly lit space reciting lines of Whitman’s poetry. They sometimes carry electric lanterns, and at times they step step behind a cloth to punctuate the verse with silouhettes of birds, foliage and stars, and their movements are nearly constant. At first the blocking seems random, but eventually a pattern emerges: circular motions growing tighter until the trio rest in a an intimate campfire configuration. Along the way they furiously scrawl words on the set and stage surface, all of it a chalkboard surface, again, punctuataing the action with lines of Whitman’s poetry.
The whole thing is over in about 40 minutes, and the length and pace seems carefully judged; a sign of taste and discernment on the part of the company. In Whitman’s poetry, “Camerado” is his own term for friend, a play on “comrade”, and by quoting, “Camerado, I give me your hand”, as the title, the creators appear to be soliciting a warm relationship from their audience. It may seem incongruous given the intellectual, avant-garde tone of the presentation. The work is engaging in a limited way, but it never takes you in the loving embrace suggested by the title verse:
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
Still, this is a celebration of language, communicated with intellectual commitment, inventive stagecraft, and artistic integrity. The group, which includes Sabrina Spalding as Stage Manager, endeavors to frame Whitman’s words in a fresh manner in which they are still allowed to stand on their own.
Camerado, I Give You My Hand
August 14, 15, 16 @ 7:30pm
Walden Theatre Alumni Company
Walden Theatre / Blue Apple Players
1125 Payne Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]