Final ‘Studio Series B’ performance captures three diverse stories

Taylor Metcalf

The stage opens with a bathtub, a radio, an easel and a bright yellow blanket.

Studio Series B held its final showing Tuesday night and drew a crowd. In almost every seat sat a person waiting for the three shows to be presented before them.

The first show, “Hum of the Arctic” directed by Sarah Hammond, told the story of a deaf girl who loved Queen and a painter who only wanted loud music to be turned down so he could work. The narrator told the audience that these people are her parents, and the universe threw them together.

The show, though short, told a sweet and sad story. Within the first 10 minutes, a scream filled Gordon Wilson Hall Lab Theatre as the painter accidentally walked in on a naked girl who was listening to Queen’s “Bicycle Race” extremely loudly.

Toward the end of the performance, paintings of hands flashed across the screen at the back of the stage — artwork by the painter who had been inspired by the deaf girl in the bathtub.

“It was simple but meaningful,” Kelly Conrad, an attendee of the show, said.

“Shringara: An Indian Music-Theatre Retelling of Love” by Shyama Iyer followed after the first show, starting with one woman, Iyer herself, dancing a classical Indian dance. She wore traditional Indian clothing and makeup, and her ankles were adorned with anklets of bells that jingled in time with her dance.

The show combined language, music and dance to create a story about love. As the three women danced, sang and spoke, they journeyed through the stages of their first loves: the excitement and contentedness, the confusion and sadness and burning anger.

Iyer discussed why she decided to create “Shringara” and how it became what it was.

“This overall theme grew into a ‘love story,’ which encapsulated that human lives do not have cultural boundaries, but are rather a conglomeration of feelings and emotional ideas that can be effectively represented through words, music and dance,” Iyer stated in an email.

Iyer had been trained in Indian classical dance and music and had an education in musical theater. She wanted to combine them.

“Writing Shringara was my attempt at blending these two worlds that I delve into every day,” Iyer said.

The traditional dance and song, newer music and spoken word captivated the audience until the show ended.

After a 15-minute intermission, the audience settled back in their seats as “Transcendence” by Nick Struck unfolded before them.

The show was created to explore how people “respond and react to tragedy, how community is created and destroyed, and how we humans adapt to a perpetually changing world,” the show’s description stated.

A group of students gathered in wooden chairs to retell the stories that Struck gathered from people who remembered 9/11 and the tragedy it brought to America. They told stories that were funny, sad and heartbreaking, but they were stories that needed to be told.

Arielle Conrad, one of the students in “Transcendence”, began working on the show with Struck last semester.

“The show has come to mean so much to me,” Conrad said. “It’s about more than just 9/11. It’s about community and how we are not just telling the story, but a part of it.”

The show brought tears to the eyes of the audience and actors alike, several members of the production showing strong emotion on stage as they retold some of the difficult stories.

The show has been long time coming. Struck has been working on “Transcendence” for several years and has spent the past semester perfecting it with his team of actors. At a practice for the show, the performers began by dancing around the room to loosen up. They “passed” the dance from one person to next before beginning the run-through.

After the run-through, Struck went through the notes he took, and they started reworking scenes.

Behind the scenes of each show in Studio Series B was a tremendous amount of thought and preparation. As the audience exited the theatre that night, all that could be heard were praises.

Features reporter Taylor Metcalf can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].