Arts & Culture

Interactive play reflects city’s diversity

'A Kind of Providence' connects communities of Providence through local dialogues

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, October 24, 2014

Brown students can sometimes be out of touch with the realities of the city they live in. But they can at least partially remedy this by seeing “A Kind of Providence,” a play in which the essence of the city shines through in all its diversity, grit and creativity.

Director Ashley Teague GS, a student in the Brown-Trinity MFA program, said she spearheaded the project in an attempt to “bridge the gap between Trinity, AS220 and the people of Providence.” She found her playwrights and actors through an open invitation to the community, which yielded a mix of amateurs and professionals. Consistent with the diversity of its cast, the play attempts the difficult task of defining a city composed of such a gamut of individuals.

Rather than the traditional theatricality of stage lighting, props and costumes, “A Kind of Providence” takes the form of stage reading — actors sit in a circle, reading aloud from scripts.

In an innovative twist, “A Kind of Providence” relays actual conversations by city residents, as the script came together by integrating verbatim quotes from locals who contributed to the making of the play into the script.

This particular feature explains the mixed-bag nature of the production — its substories lie in the subjects of mediocrity and grandiosity.

There’s the story about locals oozing both appreciation and discontent, feelings portrayed in a brilliant homage to the city. There’s the story of how a man considers his experience escaping a beating worthy of a feature film. And yet another story is about the semantics of literally getting nowhere.

Casual theatergoers might find these pecularities, as well as the absence of the standard rising plot format, deal-breakers. But enthusiasts might commend Teague’s bold and comprehensive curation, which takes the focus off production and onto the stories themselves.

Teague further incorporates the Providence community into her work by including lines submitted by audience members into the script, allowing for a degree of audience immersion that is unusual in such a stripped-down show.

The compelling stories and local participation allows “A Kind of Providence” to be effective without splurging on expensive sets. But that is not to say that piecing the show together is a mundane task. It’s not easy to put on a community-based production that depends on the willingness and availability of actors who aren’t necessarily professionals, Teague said.

Teague has assigned temporary roles to actors during script reading sessions, though these will not be set in stone until opening night. Even these impromptu sessions feel like a legitimate conversation one would hear downtown. Perhaps this authenticity arises from the shared passion of the people working on the project or maybe from the brilliance of the script speaks for itself.

Regardless, “A Kind of Providence” is a praiseworthy effort deserving a trip downtown, if not a standing ovation.

“A Kind of Providence” will  be performed for one night only Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at AS220’s 95 Empire Black Box Theatre.

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