Exploring SOU’s “The White Fugue”

by Tashina Stillmaker

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From left: Michael Hays, Grace Wolcott, Cesar Perez-Rosas and Sierra Faulkner are featured in the ensemble performing the world premiere of “The White Fugue”.
Photo via Greg Eliason

Southern Oregon University’s Department of Performing Arts is preparing to premier an original play this coming week in the Center Square Theatre, devised and directed by James Donlon.

Opening Thursday November 7th, and running until Sunday November, 17th; The White Fugue promises to be a new discovery into the depths of memory, and poses a challenge to the actors and designers of the piece to reflect upon their own concepts of memory.

“Memory is very personal to all of us and takes many forms,” said Donlon. “Memories tell a story of personal history, aid us to survive in the present time, and either strengthen us, or torture us.” Donlon has been creating theatre and unique movement performances since the late 60’s. One of his most recent creations came earlier this fall when the Performing Arts Department presented, Menagerie: The New Vaudeville as a part of the Fall Arts Fest. “Like painters, writers, and composers, I always thought theatre artists should be no different, and devise work that springs from their own point of view, process, and aesthetic,” he contributed.

The White Fugue borrows its name from two concepts, put together by Donlon. “‘White’ contains all the colors of the spectrum and is the hue of ritual throughout millennia. ‘Fugue’ is a musical structure of episodes with voices that return again and again, building to a sublime recapitulation,” he explained. “The fugue state is also characterized by reversible amnesia, sometimes establishing a new identity through unplanned travel or wandering.”

The show itself was built both by Donlon and the actors from memories and concepts taken from their own lives, and pieces that they created and explored to be presented and expanded upon in the show. “The most exciting thing I think is wondering how the audiences will respond to it,” said actress Shanti Ryle. “It’s a show like nothing SOU has seen before, and I think it’ll be extremely interesting to see if and what it makes people feel and think.”

Everything about the show is multilayered and dynamic, including the set designed by Delaney Kentzell and Grace Wolcott and the lights designed by Jeremy Conway. The show is presentational, and features many levels of movement and color, as well as incredible movement based acting by talented individuals. “It’s definitely scary to create something entirely new,” said Ryle. “It’s hard to open yourself up to that huge amount of potential, but I think we succeeded and that people will at least enjoy what we’ve come up with.”

Tickets are $21 regular admission, $18 senior, and $6 for students. Subscribers to three or more plays receive a discounted price of $17 regular admission and $15 senior. Tickets can be purchased with a credit card over the phone by calling 541-552-6348 or online at sou.edu/performingarts.

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