Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Though you may not realize it, “we’re acting as characters and narrators in other people’s lives,” Sam Goodman ’10, director of “Selections from 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks,” says.
“In the lives of friends and family, we’re very complex, deep characters. We have time to develop. But every day, we pass through other lives and become walk-ons or extras. We’re defined by what we’re wearing, what we say, what we do … and that can be scary.
“So for me,” Goodman says, “that’s what my actors did. They start the show, and they pass through 23 moments in life.”
“Selections from 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks” features 23 short plays chosen and ordered by Goodman, who “wanted to create a piece that showed the plays and the path that she takes as an author.” Performances will be in Upper Tarble today and Saturday at 8 p.m., and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.
The uniqueness of “Selections from 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks” arises from its depiction of how life and art interact on a day-to-day basis. “The creative process is really boiled down,” says Goodman. “When you tell yourself that you’re going to write a play every day, you have to wake up every morning and decide what you’re going to write about.
“It becomes almost a time capsule, because she never went back and revised her plays.” For example, in March of the year Parks was writing her plays, the United States entered Iraq. “All of a sudden,” explains Goodman, “the war becomes a presence in her life.” Goodman tried to emulate that shift in focus in his own selection of her plays, starting with civilian plays and then bringing in those that feature soldiers.
“Selections from 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks” has a cast of nine actors. Each short play has its own distinct cast, adding up to about 40 roles; Goodman notes that the actors “are people passing through characters.”
Parks doesn’t have time for character development in such short plays, so performers are “jumping almost in a strobe light effect, jumping from one moment, to another, to another.”
“Selections from 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks” is a drama board production, meaning that it is separate from the theatre department and received about $3000 in funding from SAC, which is “much more than usually is done in [Upper Tarble], which is amazing,” explains producer Ali Flamm ’09.
When they started planning in the spring of last year, “we ended up with a lot of strong designers who we knew could do great things if they had the funding,” she says, including setting up an intricate network of stage lights in Upper Tarble. Flamm also asked that students passing through Tarble during show times please be quiet, because the noise is easily heard and interrupts the performance.
Goodman, a theatre major with a directing concentration, says that “in a lot of ways, it’s a very interactive production, which we’re not necessarily used to seeing at Swarthmore.”
“If you come in with an open mind,” he says, “it’s a production that lends itself to thinking.”