02/14/2012 08:48 AM
BATON ROUGE – To bring an end to its 2012 season, Swine Palace will present productions of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “The Brothers Size,” March 21-April 1 in the Studio Theatre, located in the Music & Dramatic Arts Building on Dalrymple Drive.
“The Brothers Size” has been hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “the greatest piece of writing by an American playwright under 30 in a generation or more.” This riveting play, set in Louisiana, is the second in McCraney’s trilogy, “The Brother/Sister Plays.”
“The Brothers Size” is an evocative, comical and heartbreaking look at brotherhood, coming of age, sexuality and the bonds of family. Ogun Size and his younger brother, Oshoosi Size, have taken very different paths. Ogun dedicated his life to a single-minded pursuit of his career running an auto repair shop, while his brother, a wandering soul who has just returned from prison, is happily aimless. The elusive possibility of freedom is the central theme, and it plays out in the depiction of a racist justice system, as well as in the more universal struggle to break away from the limits of family.
McCraney is an award-winning American playwright and actor, achieving the honor of being the 2008 RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in 2010, becoming the 43rd member of the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble.
According to McCraney, the series is “inspired by Yoruba life and traditions, steeped in Southern rhythms and cadences, and seamed shut with the fire of urban music and dance.” Yoruba culture and philosophy, which hail from West Africa, are centered on the idea that all human beings possess “Ayanmo,” or destiny or fate. It also teaches that life’s journey is about growing spiritually in order to become one in spirit with Olódùmarè, the divine creator and source of all energy. Furthermore, the thoughts and actions of each person in Ayé, or the physical realm, interact with all other living things, including the Earth itself.
Swine Palace’s productions of “The Brothers Size” are directed by Femi Euba, whose
selection of plays is published in the collection, “Black Drama,” by Alexander Street
Press. Euba is also the recipient of the LSU Alumni Association Faculty Excellence
Award and the LSU Distinguished Faculty Award.
According to Euba, “The Brothers Size” is about the individual’s journey of self-discovery and finding the fate the universe has laid out for him.
“There are so many distractions in the world that imprison us and keep us from our true path in life,” Euba said. “McCraney links his characters to Yoruba gods and gives us a message that we should accept that everyone has their own journey to take. Oshoosi, the younger brother, is the one character who wants to see the world and defies the labels his brother and friend try to put on him. Elegba, his friend from prison, is a symbolic representation of the Yoruba trickster god of fate, whose ultimate purpose is to actually help us be aware of our potential. I think everyone will identify with the family relationships in the play and the desire to discover our true natures.”
“The Brothers Size” will feature professional actors Yohance Miles and Derrian Tolden in the roles of Ogun and Elegba, respectively, and Swine Palace resident ensemble member Donald Watkins in the role of Oshoosi. Yohance Miles, a Master of Fine Arts graduate of the LSU’s Professional Actor Training Program, returns to Swine Palace for a second time. He was last seen in Swine Palace’s “The Royal Family” in the fall of 2009.
“I’m very excited to work with Yohance,” Euba said. “We always wanted to do a project together while he was at LSU, and never found the time. He will bring a lot of experience to the role of Ogun.”
Scenic Designer Ken George described the design for “The Brothers Size” as “a world of suggested realism.”
“I have created a world that tells us when and where we are, yet still leaves a hint of the theatrical for our own imaginations to explore,” George said. “Audiences will see real world elements mixed with theatrical expression, such as fragmented walls and fluid movements from one location to another, all on one set unit. I have created a gritty, textural environment to help tell the story for these young men.”
Sound will play an important role in the production as well. LSU senior theatre studies student Chelsey Payne serves as sound designer for the production, and is taking on the challenge of melding the many different genres of music mentioned in the script into a cohesive whole that drives the action of the story forward.
“The music draws from hip hop to zydeco to traditional West African folk music,” she said. “Each character will have his own musicality that captures his individual identity. The words of the play and the flow between scenes are very rhythmic in and of themselves. I want to find solid ground with my sound design to match these rhythms and to create a through line to tell the story.”
Performances of “The Brothers Size” include a “pay-what-you-can” performance on March 21, an official preview performance on March 22 and the official opening performance on March 23. Subsequent performances will be held March 24 and March 28-31. All performances will take place at 7:30 p.m., except for 2:30 p.m. matinee performances on March 25 and April 1.
Tickets range from $15 to $28, and can be obtained from the Music & Dramatic Arts Box Office by calling 225-578-3527 or by visiting www.swinepalace.org. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Box Office locations at the LSU Student Union Theatre, the Music & Dramatic Arts Building and the Reilly Theatre on Tower Drive. On performance nights, tickets will be on sale at the Music & Dramatic Arts Box Office. Doors open at 6:30p.m.
Swine Palace will also host talk-back sessions following performances of “The Brothers Size” on March 25, March 29 and April 1. The talk-backs will be led by a community activist or leader speaking on a particular topic that reinforces themes from the play. Additionally, one community-wide discussion will be held on April 5 at 7 p.m. in the Studio Theatre. The dialogue will feature a panel of community activists and leaders and will be facilitated by the YWCA of Greater Baton Rouge’s Dialogue on Race. All talk-backs are free and open to the public.
Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2012