Posts Tagged ‘prison performing arts alumni theatre company’

The Golden Record
Adapted and Curated by Courtney Bailey
Directed by Rachel Tibbetts
Prison Performing Arts Alumni Theatre Company
January 26, 2023

Eric Satterfield, Summer Baer, LaWanda Jackson
Photo by Ray Bay Creates
Prison Performing Arts

Prison Performing Arts Alumni Theatre Company is putting on a unique, intriguing show at The Chapel. Taking inspiration from a NASA program, the company and playwright/performer Courtney Bailey have presented a highly personal work that provides insight into the work of PPA and the people who have been involved with it over the past several years. It’s a thoughtful ride through time, space, and memory, with a ukulele playing chicken along for the ride. 

This is essentially a retrospective, and audience members who are more familiar with PPA and its past works will probably understand it more than others, but there are a lot of intriguing, insightful moments here which provide a look into the lives of the PPA participants and their experiences. As this is a charity that works in prisons, the participants are able to share their experiences of being incarcerated, as well as readjusting to society after prison. It also serves as remembrance and tribute to several PPA members (listed in the program) who have passed away. It’s a time capsule-like document, curated and arranged by Bailey and featuring the work of several PPA participants and past productions including Antigone and First Impressions, starring a mixture of PPA alumni and professional actors. 

The story here, inspired by a pair of “Golden Records” included by NASA in the Voyager space probes in the 1970s, follows two Travelers (Eric Satterfield and LaWanda Jackson), accompanied by a cheerful chicken named Filberta (Summer Baer), who are traveling from their planet to an unknown destination. Through the course of the story, the Travelers listen to recordings and watch videos as reminders of life on their old planet, and the people they’ve left behind. They also participate in a series of repeating rituals, such as a recited “catechism” and a visit from a rogue satellite from the planet Antigone (operated by Bailey, voiced by Autumn Hales). There’s also a succession of New Year’s celebrations that seem to get closer and closer together as the Travelers lose track of time and the past becomes more and more of a distant memory. The rest of the cast appears throughout in a series of vignettes as the “transmissions” are played, and the Travelers get further and further away from their old home try to hold on to the hope of reaching their intended destination. 

The whole company is memorable, led by Satterfield and Jackson in emotional and relatable performances as the Travelers, and Baer as the devoted Filberta. The entire cast contributes memorable moments, ranging from humorous situations to poignant and heartfelt reflections. The cohesive ensemble–some appearing onstage, some on film, and others as recorded voices–includes David Nonemaker, Larry Butler, Bailey, Katie Leemon, Tyler White, Julie Antonic, Scott Brown (understudied by Bailey on opening night), Hazel McIntire, Autumn Hales, Sandra Dallas, Patty Prewitt, Dylan Staudie, and Tessa Van Vlerah. 

The simple but effective set and atmospheric lighting by Erik Kuhn contribute much to the science fiction-like mood of the show, as do Liz Henning’s costumes. There’s also highly effective use of projections designed by Michael Musgrave-Perkins, and video editing by Satterfield. Ellie Schwetye’s sound design also contributes to the overall dreamlike atmosphere of the production. 

Overall, I would say The Golden Record works well as a retrospective, especially for those who are familiar to some degree with the work of PPA. It’s an inventive reflection on identity, the passage of time, relationships, processing grief, a sense of uncertainty blended with hope for the future, and more. It’s a whimsical flight of fancy, a melancholy reflection, and an archive of past performances rolled into one imaginative package. 

Courtney Bailey, Eric Satterfield
Photo by Ray Bay Creates
Prison Performing Arts

Prison Performing Arts Alumni Theatre Company is presenting The Golden Record at The Chapel until January 29, 2023

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