WHEN: TRUST: A theatrical read-performance addressing police and community relations, directed by Prof. Cynthia Henderson, Ithaca College, co-founder of Performing Arts for Social Change (PASC) ...
WHERE: Greater Ithaca Activities Center
WHEN: Sunday, June 28, 4 p.m.
ADMISSION: FREE -- but $5 or more donation is suggested. All proceeds benefit the performers and community.
BACKGROUND: Trust is the result of a PASC commissioned project “Establishing Trust,” with a cast and volunteers who met discussed the relationship between the police force and civilians as preparation for their production.A performance in May was so well received that it was decided to organize a "revival" with new and previous cast members. A "review" of sorts, by Franklin Crawford of the Tompkins Weekly, follows this backgrounder.
"Trust" explores the negative and positive opinions of the police/community relationship, and helps to explain why "trust" in general, is so difficult to achieve on both side of the "blue blue." Director Henderson explains, “This project involves civilians from various demographics within this community as well as police officers who are interested in finding a better way for us all to work together for the benefit of everyone in the Ithaca community.”
In addition to the direction of Henderson, the script was assembled by Ithaca College Department of Theatre Arts Assistant Professor and renowned playwright Saviana Stanescu.
Stanescu says: “Cynthia's project captivated me through its beautiful ambition: to establish trust between the police and civilians. Can we really do that? I don't know the answer, but I know it's an important question.” Scenes are filled with music by Peter Rothbart, IC music professor, and stage action as direction by Amy O'Brien, IC professor of theatre and dance professor.
Henderson sayss the project became a “microcosm of both the challenges and the possibilities that this community deals with on a larger scale everyday. What we hope is that this experimental project delivers both insight and puts our community on a solution-oriented path for a challenges exist in Ithaca as well as the nation.”
Trust cast members include: Ithaca College Police Officer Mayra Colon, Micah Martorell Sr., Michah Martorell Jr., Lee-Ellen Marvin, Ella Mead VanCort, Peter Morris, Cora Moss, Ithaca Police Department Officer J.B. Nelson, O.J. Nash Prescott, Trece Stevenson and Cassie Walker.
The following is an opinion piece by Crawford in his bi-monthly column, after seeing the original performance. Many of his questions have since been addressed and it is the wish of tinytowntimes.com that "Trust" become a regular, evolving production, as Mr. Crawford suggests. NOTE: Harmony Graves Malone, who graduated short after the production, will not be in the upcoming performance.
“Trust” not a bust
From “Monday’s Child”
Franklin Crawford, Tompkins Weekly, May 28, 2015
On May 9, a group I’ve never heard of sponsored a significant piece of theater work under the directorship of Cynthia Henderson, an Ithaca College theater arts professor whose name I am familiar with: The work, “Trust,” is described as
a project that: “ … involves civilians from various demographics within this community, as well as police officers, who are all interested in finding a better way … to work together for the benefit of everyone in the Ithaca community.”
That’s soft-talk for addressing the violent collision between police and civilians across the county, and, in Ithaca. Sponsored by the Performing Arts for Social Change at Ithaca College, “Trust” didn’t completely win me over – but it did whet my appetite for more, more, more.
“Trust” did raise issues, it did work speak across a chasm to offer insights about police and community relations, in particular by casting two actual uniform police personnel, as well as community members – actors and staff from local institutions, and, IC acting students
If you didn’t hear about this notable event, much ballyhooed by Mayor Svante Myrick who was unable to attend because he was addressing a graduating class in Morrisville, N.J., (he was actually cast in the play), I’m not surprised: No one member of the local media covered the show.
I was there because I was personally invited and, seeing no media present, remained for the “talk-back” afterward. The lack of coverage was one of a handful of quibbles I had with the project, most not worth mentioning: With more time and attention I think “Trust” might have busted through to a wider audience and had a bigger impact.
The drawbacks were glaringly evident: For starters, it was held on a Saturday afternoon in the Clark Theater at IC’s Dilligham Center for the Performing Arts. That made little sense to me given its subject matter.
Two: It was a one-off. No more “Trust” shows planned or scheduled.
Three: Already mentioned, poor PR. Even with the Internet, news outlets need to be pestered into covering a Saturday event because – hey, there just aren’t enough warm bodies available to report on anything less than a major disaster.
That’s the sad part about “Trust” and begs the question why, if it was a one-off, it was not held downtown in a venue more accessible to the public. The response that other venues could not be found does not really work when you have a mayor and a police chief behind your project.
Admission was $5 – suggested – and that is not much, considering what Henderson and Company pulled together at a crazy time of year for a college professor, seniors and, well, just about everyone included in the cast.
I apologize to the actors for not going into more detail about their work, because the important take-away: They deserved more shows, they deserved a wider, more diverse audience and, with time, the show would have had time to cohere. As it stood, they did a damn fine job; personally, I wanted to see harder-edged matters addresses in the scripts and monologues; more conflict, less easy answers.
I’ve been around too long and know too much about police and community matters to have left the theater feeling “Wow, that really rocked my world.”
What came out in the talk-back, which included IPD Police Chief John Barber, gave an insight into why future adaptations of “Trust” -- which I hope will happen -- should consider the benefits of a round-robin theater ensemble. Because the “civilians” in the play did benefit from working with actual police personnel. These police were: IPD Officer JB Nelson, and IC security officer Mayra Colon, both of whom deserve a shout-out for daring to talk about their work in a public forum that was not choreographed by their respective departments.
I could spend the rest of this column simply listing the names of the cast and their jobs. I’m sorry that there isn’t adequate room to give them each credit where its due.
But I remain struck by the work of one Harmony Graves Malone, an IC senior who graduated a couple weeks later. Her movement piece that opened the show proper, was fearless and stunnning. She provoked the audience with gesture and moves that led to high expectations, employing a mix a free form modern/Afro-American dance and then fleeing the stage – just after producing a pair of handcuffs which she defiantly held aloft, then deposited on a chair unceremoniously, before scurrying backstage.
“That,” I thought, “is a bit of theater.”
The rest however, was spoken, with some dialogue, monologues and one intense blocking scene with movement describing a woman’s report of a purse snatcher and the police picking up two young suspects, black, who were in fact, the young men who helped chase away the perpetrator.
One scene obliquely addressed the issue of police calls for “disturbed persons.” That’s when an agency or person alerts the police to a neighbor, friend or loved-one who seems at risk of “harming themselves.” This matter needs bigger play. Mistakenly called the Baker Act for a Florida Law that puts the police on the frontline of suicide calls and barricade situations, it often involves common citizens who have too loudly made their despair public, or made the off-handed comment, even, of feeling like blowing their own brains out as a matter of severe expression, not of intent.
Such police visits can start as a simple visit and check-in with the individual in question and lead to full-blown SWAT team interventions, if the person is suspected of holding a weapon and is not “cooperative.”
See? That alone brings me to the end of a much needed discussion, a discussion that demands rigorous, repeated exploration if “Trust” is to be more than a teaser.