Open Forum

FIRES IN THE MIRROR

  • 1.  FIRES IN THE MIRROR

    Posted 06-25-2020 14:18
    If you've had any experience with this play, please share positives and/or negatives.  If you have performed with any approved cuts, please share that info too.

    Be well and STAY SAFE

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    David Kramer
    Mt Sinai NY
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  • 2.  RE: FIRES IN THE MIRROR

    Posted 06-26-2020 16:18
    I saw Anna Deavere Smith do the show in one of its very earliest productions--at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA (sidenote: we were rehearsing my own show in fall 1992, and she was in our rehearsal room warming up before we'd come in, so I'd pass her almost every night). It's still one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I've ever seen. I remember the night I saw it being sick, but for 90 minutes I completely forgot that.

    Needless to say, part of what made it so amazing was her performance, and how effortlessly she could transform herself into different people. So any larger cast show won't have that (which isn't to say it's not worth doing). One note I'd add: While I've never seen an "acting edition" (only something that felt like more of a book) of this, at least when it comes to Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, I don't believe that everything that's in the published book was actually performed.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

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    Jonathan Dorf
    Playwright/ Co-founder of YouthPLAYS/ Chair of The Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 3.  RE: FIRES IN THE MIRROR

    Posted 06-27-2020 12:34
    Edited by Annemarie Bean 06-27-2020 12:34
    Hi, David. Back in grad school, I wrote an academic essay on ADS and her productions of FIRES and TWILIGHT. Here is some random background information:
    • Both productions had the same development process: ADS interviewed known and lesser-known folks who had thoughts the incidents portrayed. The interviewees were not always directly commenting on the incidents. ADS approached scholars to comment generally about the violent responses that spring up after a perceived miscarriage of justice. Then she edited the pieces, reducing the full interviews to a moment in which the person "reveals" themselves. ADS ordered the pieces with the help of the director and dramaturg. An important part of the performance was in her early work ADS had no blackouts. ADS worked with a toolbelt with props stuck in it in her earlier work, which was going primarily college campuses and interviewing members of the campus community. The reason I emphasize the absence of blackouts is that you saw the LABOR of ADS during those visible transitions in her early work. As an African-American woman, ADS was at the forefront of performing "otherness" that was not her own "otherness." ADS made a very powerful statement to the theatre world with her mastery of non-A-A and non-female characters. The additions of blackouts in The Public's production of FIRES and the Taper's production of TWILIGHT were wonderful in many ways, but I do think they partially erased the radical act ADS was making by assuming "whiteness," "Orthodox Jewishness," and so forth.
      • You may want to consider having the transitions happen on stage, including a prop table and a costume rack. Or have actors wear toolbelts!
    • You can see FIRES on YouTube in sections. Part 1 is here. In my opinion, the FIRES and TWILIGHT videos are over-produced, supporting a view that ADS needed images of the real events to legitimate her performances. However, I can also see the need for tangible information when performing for a HS audience. 
    • Critques on one ADS method--one you may run into--are mostly focused on her use of accents. TWILIGHT features several Korean-American characters and Koreans/Korean-American folk protesting against what they saw as ADS' stereotypical behavior when she portrayed K/K-As. As we all are, you will be challenged to direct the students to not collapse into physical and vocal stereotypes.
    • The other trap will be to have the performances by white students of POC be culturally sensitive and not seem like a racist version of "---face," as is manifested by current and historical examples of blackface.
    I've just moved, so I cannot presently put my hands on a copy of the article I wrote. I've summarized the relevant to production elements here. Let me know if you have any further questions.

    Good luck!
    Anna

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    Annemarie Bean
    Director of Drama
    Long Trail School
    Dorset VT
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  • 4.  RE: FIRES IN THE MIRROR

    Posted 07-02-2020 22:57
    David, I teach Fires to my undergrad Creative Dramatics students. We discuss truth in representing characters- is it possible to portray a character of a different ethnicity of your own and not portray stereotypes? Anyway... I came across this today: https://dramateach82.weebly.com/unit-2-semester-2-fires-in-the-mirror.html

    -Emily

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    Emily Howard
    Sacramento CA
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