Photos by B Docktor
“The Brothers Size” / Ancram Opera House
1330 County Route 7, Ancram, NY 12502
August 9 – 25
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 3 PM
“The Brothers Size”
Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Martine Kei Green-Rogers
Jovan “Kofi” Davis Geovonday Jones Brian Demar Jones
I love looking behind the curtain, don’t you? Learning the inside story, getting the low-down, hearing every telling detail. I attended the Opening Night performance of “The Brothers Size” at the Ancram Opera House, and was mesmerized by the play and performers….and set out to learn the full story of how this stellar production ended up in our midst. After my meeting with a trio of dynamic young actors, as well as the two masterminds behind the Opera House, I found myself thinking about all the converging pathways that inevitably brought these like-minded souls together.
Tarrel Alvin McCraney’s insightful drama (written in 2007) came into the lives of these five men at varying times, for various reasons. For some, the play ignited an immediate torch; especially for performer Brian Demar Jones, who described it in lyrical terms…”like discovering poetry”…. “almost Shakespeare-like”. Kofi Davis encountered the play more recently, as he prepared his audition for the role of Oshoosi Size. Geovonday Jones chuckled as he confessed to an exhausted 2-AM first read-through of the play, as part of a homework assignment during Grad School. For Opera House owners and directors, Jeff Mousseau and Paul Ricciardi, the play was a “quick choice”, fulfilling their goal to bring insightful performances and compelling story-telling to Ancram.
In fact, the intimate size of the Opera House provides an ideal environment for this dynamic production that seemingly fills every inch of the theater and brings performers and audience together (very in sync with Brian’s preference of thinking of the audience as “other-scene partners”). The collage-like scenic backdrop (designed by Sarah Edkins) immediately establishes a sense of place — a workmanlike environment full of tools and devoid of technology. Kofi Davis, the youngest cast member, mentioned how much he welcomes “looking into the eyes” of the audience as a refreshing antidote to today’s ever-present cellphones and intrusive technology. Throughout the play, all three actors move through the space, using spoken dialog, music, and expressive body language to create a vivid world; as the playwright respects the audience with his “show them, don’t tell them” approach to a searing story of brotherhood, reunion, separation, and far more.
I had a rare opportunity to not only watch fine actors in performance mode, but also meet them to discuss their creative process. Sitting across from these actors, one can easily assume they are long-time friends and colleagues – but “Brothers” is their first mutual project. Traveling to our region from Manhattan, they’ve enjoyed sharing a local house in Ancram, and temporarily becoming part of our community. Common/kindred themes emerged…the importance of “action”, reverence for “language”, respect for “speaking in an authentic voice”, and an appreciation for mentors and colleagues who have helped along the way. Although they are all currently involved in either teaching or coaching others, they spoke movingly of influences in their own lives. Geovonday acknowledged a fellow performer and friend who unfailingly provides dedicated listening and nurturing “optimism and clarity”; and Kofi broke into a wide “can’t hide the love” smile as he described his Dad as a non-stop cheering section. Brian recounted an inspired moment when another actor wordlessly transformed an acting prompt into an invitation to sing, using eye contact and a whole lot of conviction. And all three expressed wonder at witnessing break-through moments with their students; the joy of being present when an act of free-flowing creativity blooms. Geovonday, a self-described “heady” actor, laughed at his own habit of noticing his own “hang-ups” while he is coaching others. And then he wisely credited the act of learning from mistakes — “it’s OK to fail”. Words to live by, right?
Generously sharing their guiding principles, it was obvious that these young actors are living their personal philosophies – onstage and off. “When all else is wrong – action restores everything.” – this observational gem from Geovonday. And young-man-turned-wise-philosopher Kofi spoke of “living all our lives in order to return to our five-year-old-selves”; also affirming the value of “instinctual play”. Brian spoke of the shifting trends in acting methods of the past, and the current emphasis on “realism and authenticity”; fostering moments when actors can “forget themselves and leap”. He quietly mused that his chosen profession will allow him to live “10 lives”, providing more-than-a-hint of his “all in” dedication and focus.
The two founders-of-the-feast in this scenario are the Opera House owners/directors, Jeff and Paul. Long and winding roads lead them to be here in our midst, occupying the historic former Grange Hall which is now both an adaptable performance space and welcoming loft-like residence. “Trust” was a continual theme that ran through their commentary, providing insights about how they enthusiastically combine their love of theater with sincere enjoyment of home and community.
A perfect local example of “Love where you live”, their dedication to the arts and educational programs has brought a renewed spark to the Ancram Opera House.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see “The Brothers Size”. I guarantee you will enjoy every moment of the performance, and you’ll also leave the theater with a grange-hall-full of reflections/reactions/observations/insights and far more.
Lynne Perrella is a mixed-media artist, author of five books, and workshop instructor. For more inspiration and information, visit www.LKPerrella.com