by Sue Ann Rybak
For the sixth year in row, Yes! And … Collaborative Arts teen theater company SHADOW will perform in the 2015 Fringe Festival. This year’s original production, “The Fall,” is a collaborative piece written and performed by SHADOW Company.
Mt. Airy resident Michael Brix, executive director of Yes! And … Collaborative Arts, described “The Fall,” which runs this Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18 and 19, at Germantown Mennonite Church, 21 W. Washington Lane in Germantown, as a “new take on the old tale of Pandora’s Box.”
Natalie Hann, the SHADOW Company director, said that “through the use of intricate handcrafted masks, ‘The Fall’ addresses how we as humans use our senses to create unfair evaluations of the world and people around us.”
The story begins after Elah, the maker and master of all that is, hides the fire of life from all of her human creations, brothers Prometheus and Able set out to find the fire and spread it across the Earth. During their quest, they find the guardians of fire and agree to rescue their lonely, beautiful daughter, Pandora, in exchange for a piece of the flame to share. Elah, angry at the guardians’ betrayal, bestows a powerful box upon Pandora with a key and orders never to open it. However, it only takes one moment of temptation to change the fate of the world.
Hann, of East Falls, said the story reminds us “that these senses must work in conjunction with hope and understanding in order to create a world in which the gift of life is celebrated at its full potential.”
Luke Risher, 16, of Germantown, who started attending Yes! And … Collaborative Arts when he was just 6, said the company wanted this year’s show to be “a little more imaginative and story-driven” than past Fringe Festival shows.
“The past three shows we’ve done as a production have been heavy and political,” he said. “We always try to have pieces of our art be commentary on society or human nature. So we decided to tell a story that was applicable to human nature but also gave us space to expand in the tradition of myths and storytelling.”
Brix said the program empowers today’s youth by encouraging them to reflect on issues of their time and allowing them the opportunity to have a dialogue. “The conversations they have are raw and honest. They allow kids who wouldn’t necessarily have a forum to discuss the issues that are affecting them. The program allows kids to not only imagine a different way of life but helps them change a destructive pattern of behavior in their life.”
Olivia Taylor, 16, of Mt. Airy, said one of the most important messages the organization conveys “is that teens can create pieces of thoughtful and inspiring art. We don’t need to set boundaries because we surpass them everyday during our process. Hope is a major theme in the show. Going through your teen years is difficult, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like you can have a happy ending or even get through the day, but our play shows it can come someday. Like the characters in the play, we need to learn how to work alongside one another and accept each other’s differences.”
Hann said the Shadow Company has become “a place where people discover who they are … I think this is one of the few places where we respect their voice. I don’t think that happens a lot for teenagers.”
Luke Risher added that often teens are under an authority figure. “There is a hierarchy, and while there is a place for that in our lives, being able to come here with peers from neighborhoods all over the city helps us build relationships with people from all walks of life.”
“Obviously,” added Hann, “we are a theater company, and we do strive to put on excellent shows that matter and are interesting and fun, but more than that, making sure that we really stick to those ideals is more important than putting on a show. We don’t turn away any kid. I love that we don’t have auditions for our program. I think at the end of this I would be more excited that they were good people than good actors.”
SHADOW Company will perform “The Fall” at the Germantown Mennonite Church, 21 W. Washington Lane in Germantown, on Sept. 18, 7 p.m., and Sept. 19, 3 and 7 p.m. Tickets, $7, can be purchased at 215-413-1318 or at www.yesandcamp.org