Theater: A Sacred Passage by Full Circle Theater Co., performing at Dreamland Arts

John Stephens, Lara Trujillo and Marcos Lopez in Theater: A Sacred Passage. Photo by L.K. Bachman.

John Stephens, Lara Trujillo and Marcos Lopez in Theater: A Sacred Passage. Photo by L.K. Bachman.

“It’s in our blood.”

It’s as good an answer as any. Theater: A Sacred Passage (Full Circle Theater Co., performing in the lovely Dreamland Arts space, on leafy Hamline Ave., St. Paul) asks the apt question: why did we choose this insane line of work? The play recounts the evolution of 5 real performers – James A. Williams, Martha Johnson, Lara Trujillo, Rick Shiomi, Stephanie Lein Walseth; these artists are also given playwriting credits. The above are niftily portrayed by a solid company of actors, too numerous for me to mention here. They’re all good. And they’re nicely directed by the uber-talented Shiomi, former artistic director of Mu Performing Arts, founder of Full Circle.

They are all, performers and performees, up against a lot. Well-meaning family members demand, “You’re studying Theater? Whaddaya gonna do with that?” “Oh, you’re an actor. Which restaurant?” “How old are you? 37? And you’re sill at this? Off-Broadway isn’t a job.” In this way, A Sacred Passage is about passion, about that ineffable but nonetheless tangible oomph theater artists get from their work. Getting butts into the seats is always a challenge, but the work is undeniably satisfying. Why? this play effectively asks. It’s a question we can all identify with.

One answer, and A Sacred Passage recounts this vividly: theater can be a way of connecting to ethnicity. All the featured performers in A Sacred Passage do this: they explore their Asian-ness, their African-ness, Native-ness, Hispanic-ness, etc. This gives the play focus and heightened intensity. They all discover a vivid new meaning for “family.”

Also, A Sacred Passage investigates, interestingly, the intersection between actors, plays and playwrights. For example, in the James A. Willams section, whose sensibility do we get? Williams the performer (on whom the section is based)? John Stephens the actor? Williams the writer (one assumes that James A. Williams wrote the James A. Williams story, but who knows)? This odd dynamic obtains throughout and it adds a nice level of complexity to the piece.

If I have a criticism it’s that the play felt too long by, oh, ten minutes. But what do I know? Probably you’re less jaded, and more patient, than I am.

Theater: A Sacred Passage, funded by a number or progressive local foundations – e.g., the Wilder Foundation – was performed at high schools, community houses, etc. It has now settled into Dreamland Arts for, count ’em, two more performances. Make the effort to see it; it’s worthwhile.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book about the magic of bedtime stories, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, has just been published. Please visit his informational website.

How Was the Show for You?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *