Sunday, December 1, 2013

CROSSING at Signature Theatre: The Reaction

Everyone steps into the theatre coming from a different background and with a different set of life views and opinions. This is similar to the essence of Crossing, a new musical that was presented by Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, written by Matt Conner and Grace Barnes. The musical, inspired by the story of Harriet Tubman and the search for freedom, according to composer Matt Conner, is the story of eight different people from different time periods and walks of life, all existing at the same train station on their search for something more in their lives.

After being asked by Signature to pen a new musical, Conner said that he and Barnes "we picked the topic of sort of a human search for freedom, and we went all over the world: every civilization, character, and we found other types of freedoms...[and it] became a larger conversation about what freedom was."

After a developmental period at Signature and at the Shenandoah Conservatory, when Crossing returned to Signature, the show received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike.

In Nelson Pressley's review for The Washington Post, he says that "On this enchanted platform, these archetypal figures talk together across the years, though Barnes and Conner don’t give them much to say. “Crossing” is less interested in history than in character sketches; big historical moments are simply the backdrop for personal crises." This makes it clear that although Conner and Barnes had a clear vision of what they wanted Crossing to say, it did not always read that way to the audience.

While critics unanimously enjoyed Conner's music, many felt the book needed to clarify the true arc of the characters and what they gain throughout the show. Charles Shubow, who reviewed the show for, noted how the book needed to better link the eight stories together.

Audience members had similar issues as the reviewers and didn't truly understand the message that Conner & Barnes were trying to get across. In a comment on the Washington Post review, user "smpflueger" said that "Undercooked is the perfect word. While performed well, the material is the problem...Ultimately the [characters] don't seem to have a lot to say and I didn't care about them. They are mere scetches [sic] of people, architypes [sic] without much fleshing out."

Conner has spoked to a lot of audience members after the show and while "some people felt it was unfinished, people were trying to figure out “what this is” because people want to put it in its box, but I can’t put it in a box." This stresses an interesting idea of what a piece of theatre needs to be and if the writers need to put a label on their work.

While the show started as a search for freedom, in Conner's eyes "this play is about the connections we all have as human and how those connections make us who we are."

Like the eight characters in the show, everyone has different views and is affected by life differently. So too audiences reacted very differently to this new musical and took away different messages of what it meant to be free.

No comments:

Post a Comment