Unconventional casting in ‘Twilight’ confuses audience

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Lauren Oaks & Isaac Barney

Standout Monologues: Junior Shawntell Livingston (left) depicts the lively “Maria” — a ju- ror on the civil trial of Rodney King. Senior Lauren Oaks (right) sits solemnly as a tortured anonymous juror. Senior Alisa Aistrup (below) sips her drink as philosopher Cornel West.

Alex Bussey, Opinion Editor

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” is a series of monologues focusing on the beating of Rodney King and subsequent Los Angeles Race Riots in 1992.  Bear Creek Theater director Cassie Champeau adapted this production, originally a one-woman show performed by Anna Deveare Smith, to fit her cast of 17 students.  With 36 characters in the play, all actors portray at least two characters, with some actors even taking on four different roles.

Due to the unconventional casting, this play was confusing.  At multiple points in the play, audience members found themselves at a loss.  Which character is this? What’s happening? When exactly was this monologue supposed to take place?  Nobody but the cast and crew seemed to have these answers.

One aspect of the play that made it particularly confusing to watch was the lack of continuity: 15 of the roles were played by more than one actor, so one actor performed one monologue for one character, and the next time that character spoke, it was a different actor in the same costume.  In some instances, the actors even switched roles on stage while someone else was monologuing. Although the name of the character was announced before each monologue, the reliance on these announcements were a clunky interruption.

Such was the case for the character Paul Parker, an African-American community leader.  His costume featured a teal polo shirt and paper hat that was exchanged four times during one scene.

While overall difficult to follow, the play had a few redemptive performances that highlighted the production’s intentions: to capture the emotions and responses of the community surrounding racial violence.  One such performance came from senior Lauren Oaks, who portrayed an anonymous juror from Rodney King’s trial. Oaks’ emotional monologue captured the juror’s feelings of regret and fear he faced following the fallout of the trial, which included death threats and even more horrifying letters of support from the KKK.

Junior Shawntell Livingston, who played Maria, another juror in the trial, delivered a similarly redeeming performance.  Livingston recounted her character’s frustrations toward the other jurors with comical impersonations that brought the jury’s general apathy to life.  

Overall, “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” was a strong production with impressive performances and a powerful message about racial injustice,  but parts of the story were lost in the complicated casting and unconventional format of the show.

The theater department has four more shows planned for this school year, starting with “And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank,”  which will run in February. This spring, the After-School theater program will perform Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” set in a mental hospital, the Theater Production class will perform “What I Want to Say but Never Will” and the Advanced Theater class will perform “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.”