Arts & Culture, Video

‘Violet’ finds meaning in the skin-deep

Musical follows disfigured girl on cross-country journey through the tumultuous ’60s

By
Contributing Writer

“Violet,” directed by Skylar Fox ’15 and running in the Production Workshop Downspace this Friday through Monday, deals with problems of appearance, and avoiding the cliche, it does not discredit the power of the superficial.

The musical follows the titular character’s quest to heal a disfiguring scar, moving on a Greyhound bus across an American landscape fraught with the tumult of the 1960s, including the civil rights movement, Vietnam and the era’s religious revival.

“Violet,” written by Brian Crawley, tackles artifice, disguise and identity, as well as the lingering effects of the past on the present.

The musical begins at the home of a young Violet, played by a sprightly, childlike and spirited Sarah Black ’16. She plays in the garden as her father chops wood nearby. Quickly, this idyllic scene turns tragic as the blade of his axe flies off and hits Violet, permanently damaging her face. Three years after her father’s death, Violet, now played by Ellen Zahniser ’14, leaves her home in North Carolina in search of a televangelist in Tulsa who has promised on his show to use of the power of God to cure anyone. Zahniser holds a fantastic presence on stage and uses her versatile voice to convey both Violet’s strength and wit as well her sensitivity.

As Violet embarks on her pilgrimage, she befriends two army soldiers, Flick and Monty — played by Stephen Beswick-Bozier ’17 and Jason Connor ’15, respectively — on their way to Fort Smith, an army base in Arkansas. Their odyssey is interrupted by Violet’s memories and flashbacks of her father teaching her to live with her scar. The musical falls short in its attempt to draw a parallel between the society’s reactions to Violet’s disfiguration and the African-American Flick’s race during the civil rights movement. But the dynamic between Beswick-Bozier’s well-wrought, wisely restrained, contemplative role and Connor’s brilliant portrayal of the innocent and naive bravado of a man never marginalized by society helps make up for this failed and ill-thought-out attempt as a foil for Violet.

Two directorial choices add to the strength of the performance. First, despite the elaborate period costumes, none of the actors wear shoes, offering a level of nakedness and vulnerability to the veneer of the characters. Second, a series of mirrors framing the back of the stage in the first act reflects both the actors and the audience, creating an environment of visual self-awareness for the audience.

The music itself — a mixture of gospel and blues-infused pop — reaches its height when the solitude of the characters breaks down and the ensemble joins together in rare moments of inclusion. “Surprised” and “Raise Me Up” are the clear highlights, though the other numbers remain similarly captivating.

At points, the broad sweep through the time period can come up short — as though race, war and religion are merely landmarks to be checked off and not worthy of greater exploration. And Violet’s prayers for Ava Gardner’s cheekbones and Brigette Bardot’s lips can appear vain and superficial, especially compared to the violence that Flick faces. But for the most part, “Violet” is a worthy tale of attempted self-reinvention — a search for control over our lives and their surfaces.

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  • glen broemer

    READ NOW. there are right wing censors who follow me around deleting my publications, usually within a day.

    With either the willfully blind approval or the willful ignorance of the judiciary the right has killed & stolen several of my pets and routinely shoot energy weaponry at me and my pets. Recent harm to animals include: two kittens from a pregnant stray i took in were killed a few days ago. The remaining two, just 3 weeks old, shake their head as government operatives shoot them with energy weaponry. They shot the eye out or removed the eye of a large really good natured stray at the port, hobbled another cat at the port, shooting it with energy weaponry, and routinely kill and leave dead animals in my path. A few years ago one of them threatened, prophetic, ‘we’ll just kill a cat every so often’, in so many words. This has continued despite my calls to the police, the FBI, Congress, and my petitions in court. In the usual case, it appears that the right goes to a judicial crony for a ruling permitting them to harm animals to retaliate against me for my free speech. There’s no serious argument but that they interfered with my personal life and economic options for 3 decades, so their solution to my noting it is to kill animals. Makes perfect sense right? It does if you’re a sociopathic criminal, criminally stupid, and hawkish. Invariably their lies are exposed and the wrongfulness of the harm is clear to everyone, though not until the animals have been maimed or killed. There is really only one solution, and that’s to disempower them politically.

    Typically operating through Puppets–including puppets in the judiciary–the right wing has for decades been committing crimes and trying to classify them to cover them up, a move explicitly forbidden by the Code of Federal Regulations. The right has accomplished its political objectives by presenting a fraction of the evidence to judicial officials who, having seen the pattern dozens of times before, could not help but realize that they were being presented with incomplete and inaccurate information.

    If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, right? the Democrats’ great accomplishment is producing the political equivalent of a Rodney King video, clearly demonstrating the lies of the right, the right Hilary Clinton correctly identified as a vast conspiracy. Confirm by examining Central District of California Cases, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L –though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of their day to day assaults, a few month time slice indicative of a decade of assault, and 9th Circuit case 11-56043.