KINGSTON, RI – October 7, 2022 – I don’t believe in anything… You can’t trust anyone… Everyone is getting into a scam… I’ve seen friends die.
In dead-end streets and in an abandoned, dilapidated factory that serves as a temple to excess and despair, these are the realities of homeless youth and victims of “Polaroid Stories,” which opens Thursday, October 13 at the Robert E. Will Theater at the University of Rhode Island.
Told in non-linear vignettes, Naomi Iizuka’s 1997 play offers a gritty and unsettling view of life on the streets – a world of drug addicts, dealers, prostitutes and runaways trying to survive in this no man’s land on the fringes. of an unidentified world. town. Based in part on Ovid’s epic poem, “Metamorphoses”, the play mixes Greek mythology – including characters such as Zeus, Dionysus, Orpheus, Eurydice – with true stories of homeless youth.
“At the heart of it, ‘Polaroid Stories’ is a story about both longing and the consequences of escape,” said director Patrick Saunders, assistant professor of theater at URI. “The characters try to escape really terrible situations, but the routes they use to escape are just as destructive. They really don’t want to feel their pain and they don’t want to be themselves anymore. It’s our opportunity to understand what those urges are like, how easy it is to get trapped in a situation like the ones we see on stage, and to really understand and recognize that those are desires that we all have.
Saunders, who starred in a production of “Polaroid Stories” with Burbage Theater at Pawtucket in 2019, says the mashup of mythology and the true stories Iizuka culled from interviews with homeless youth help elevate the characters. , making it harder for the public to dismiss them .
“I think the reason Iizuka presents these otherwise disenfranchised characters as gods and mythical beings is to force us to see them without reducing them to an archetypal drug addict,” he said. he declares. “That can be a danger of this game. If you weren’t encouraged to look through that other lens, it might be easy to think they’re in those positions just because of drug addiction.
“Polaroid Stories,” a two-hour power-packed run that uninterruptedly cycles through about three dozen interwoven vignettes, was a popular pick among students when URI’s theater department picked its season.
“I think a lot of students were excited because this play is different from other shows we’ve done over the last few years,” Courtney Satterley ’23 said. “We also really wanted to take up the challenge of a more contemporary text. The message of “Polaroid Stories” is also more relevant than ever. Although they took place during the “War on Drugs” and the rise of homeless youth in the 90s, the issues of that era persist today.
Satterley plays Skinhead Girl, who, along with Skinhead Boy, serves as a direct link to the homeless youth Iizuka interviewed for the play. The other eight characters in the play are drawn from mythology, steeped in the hardships of modern streets. “I love the novel use of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ to tell these tragic and important stories,” she said.
Liam Roberts ’24 plays D (Dionysus), the Greek god of wine and pleasure, and fittingly party life and ruler of the realm in “Polaroid Stories.” “He is the embodiment of a reckless, vice-fueled energetic freedom,” Roberts said. “He likes to share his vice with those around him to see if they can follow his way of life.”
“I love the play because of its poetically secular nature that is unafraid to challenge the audience’s way of thinking and at times punches the audience in the gut with the dark sobering realities that the play presents,” said he added.
Jenna Muldoon ’23 plays Echo, a gossip who has been cursed by the goddess Hera to repeat only the last words of others. As in the mythology, she is in love with the egocentric Narcissus, a prostitute in search of a sweet daddy when he is not looking in the mirror. For much of the play, she follows him as he talks about himself, only being able to repeat his words in response.
Acting with this limitation was a learning experience. “I struggled a lot at first, but eventually it became a really cool tool because in theater we only say out loud what we need to say,” she said. “Just having those words isn’t so much of an inhibition as I expected because, as we all know, ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. ‘”
Bringing the gritty world of “Polaroid Stories” to life has also been the work of many designers – some alumni and current students – and more than 35 production students.
The set, designed by Assistant Professor James Hurban, is a three-level maze that resembles an abandoned factory that mixes classic elements with a contemporary twist. “A modern take on a ruined temple,” Saunders said. The costumes, designed by Matt Oxley ’21 of South Kingstown, are mostly contemporary garments that represent the different avenues people take in this dark world.
The atmosphere of the room is reflected in the lighting, said lighting designer Audrey Visscher ’22. “This show plays a lot on drug use and partying as a means of escape,” she said. “I want to create an environment where the audience feels like they’re on this journey with the characters.”
The work of Charlestown prop master Melie Hayes ’23 also brings that home. Hayes worked on 36 elements for the play, many of which have duplicates due to the play’s depiction of drug use. “My friends affectionately call me ‘drug illiterate’ because I know so little about them,” she said. “But for this show, I had to dig deeper to create safe and visually accurate alternatives for the stage.”
Forgive our appearance
The Fine Arts Center, which houses the Will Theatre, is under construction. Guests should therefore use the theater entrance at the rear of the building, accessible from the Bills Road car park. Look for the entrance marked with the large “Welcome to URI Theater” banner, as well as the signs leading to the lobby doors.
“Polaroid Stories” October 13-15 and October 20-22 at 7:30 p.m. and October 16-23 at 2 p.m. at the Will Theater at the Fine Arts Centre, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston Campus. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors and URI students, faculty, and staff. Tickets can be purchased online, or at the Fine Arts Center in Room 101H (across from the Will Theater), or by calling (401) 874-5843. For more information on tickets and the University’s COVID-19 policy, visit the ticketing website.
Cast of “Polaroid Stories”:
Character, actor, hometown
D (Dionysus), Liam Roberts, Warwick
Eurydice, Syd Davey, Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Persephone (also Semele), Ayrin Ramirez, Providence
Orpheus (also Tereus), David Weber, Sault Ste. Mary, Michigan
Philomel, Ashlyn Banno, Johnston
Skinhead Girl, Courtney Satterley, Portsmouth
Narcissus, Justin Peters, West Orange, New Jersey
Echo, Jenna Muldoon, Staten Island, New York
Skinhead Boy, Henry O’Brien, South Kingstown
G (aka Zeus, Hades), Ben Pereira, Danbury, Connecticut
D (Dionysus), David Santana, Providence
Eurydice, Giulia Russo, Caldwell, New Jersey
Persephone (also Semele), Liliana Varela, Pawtucket
Orpheus (also Tereus), Brandon Tallardy, Westerly
Philomel, Chayla Valentine, Woonsocket
Skinhead Girl, Emma Freel, Barrington
Narcissus, Christian Owen, Eastport, New York
Echo, Paige D’Iorio, Haverhill, Massachusetts
Skinhead Boy, Matt Perrotta, Cranston
G (aka Zeus, Hades), Alex Linn, Hanover, Massachusetts