production history

June 2007 Amherst, MA

KO Festival of Performance at Amherst College


May 2007 Northampton, MA

A.P.E. Gallery & Performance Space

 

related article

'Illness and healing' inspires

KO Fest 2007 shows

By LAUREN MODISETTE

The Amherst Bulletin

 

Juggling performances seems to be second nature to Northampton playwright Lenelle Moise. This month she is flooded with theater to-dos, especially with KO Fest 2007 just around the corner.

 

The KO Festival of Performance is coming up on its 16th season at Amherst College, starting next weekend. The series promises emotionally powerful images, thought-provoking performances and laughter in four productions on the theme of "Stories of Illness and Healing," provided by writers like Moise.

 

The festival kicks off with Moise's play "Matermorphosis," performed by Serious Play theater ensemble. It's Moise's adaptation of Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis."

 

Kafka's short story is about a boy who turns into a giant bug. He experiences exile and shame from his family members, who can't come to terms with his transformation.

 

"What I really love about the story," Moise said, "is that there's something so wonderfully universal about it."

 

Moise has tweaked the story so that Kafka's Gregor is now Gregora, a menopausal mother supporting her family through exotic dancing.

 

"It's really meant to be a meditation on misogyny and how ... every day a lot of [women] experience hatred... especially when they're aging and they're not perceived as fertile anymore."

 

She goes on to say her play is about the deterioration of society, how we adapt to change and the human fear of death.

 

Cross-cultural view

 

Moise, who earned her MFA in Playwriting from Smith College in 2004, and is a recipient of the 2004 and 2005 James Baldwin Memorial Awards in Playwriting, isn't your average American playwright. She moved to the states from Haiti when she was 2, and put down roots just outside of Boston in Cambridge. She said that her Uncle Sergo used to read poems in church and had an influence on her pursuit of the performing arts.

 

"He would not only recite [the poems] but he would embody them," she said. "He was just really enthusiastic, and encouraged me to be a poet when I was 5 years old.

 

"The two were always married - poetry and movement were always one. That just developed into a love for theater because theater is the embodied word."

 

Moise said she's always been an orator. "My family are really passionate people. I grew up talking politics all the time." Her work explores race, gender, class, resistance and sexuality.

 

"I think that [these issues have an influence] on my personal life because I am black, I am female, and I am pomosexual," Moise said, referring to what she calls post-modern sexuality. "I am a woman who loves women, who is also invested in men.

 

"All these things happen at the same time and I think about ... the intersection of race, class and gender in my own life as a metaphor for how they intersect in all of our lives.

 

"I see the transformation of [Gregora[']s] body into an insect as a metaphor for chronic illness," Moise said.

 

She insisted that the cast resist playing the piece as realism. "It's not like she's literally an insect," she said. "It's supposed to be allegorical and quirky."

 

Moise didn't write "Matermorphosis" to be a comedy, but she said that it has comic elements. "It's ironic," she said. "There are definitely some moments that I think are funny.

 

"I hope that [the audience will] wonder about it and think about it - and that they call their mother," she said. "I hope people are aware of ... why they're laughing or why they're not laughing."

 

Moise's play reflects the KO fest theme by exploring the concept of aging. She hopes that the audience will have questions during the discussions following each performance, in which the audience is encouraged to connect with the performances and each other.

 

Sabrina Hamilton, co-founder of KO Theater Works and organizer of the fest, believes that other cultures are better at handling illness, aging and death. "We've somehow been disconnected," she said, adding that the discussions often run longer than the performances. She said KO's goal is to present the performances and discussions in an entertaining, inspiring, funny and thought-provoking way.

 

With computers, films, and DVDs "our culture is losing a lot of its liveliness," Hamilton said. "Theater is being there in the room, making it personal. The humanity in the room, when it's face to face, is what we're looking for.

 

"So many people I know are dealing with illness, death or aging parents," she said. "Its a big issue in people's lives. We're a culture that's not good at dealing with it."

 

Published on June 29, 2007



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A haunting adaptation of Franz Kafka’s indelible short story “Metamorphosis.” Moïse’s darkly comic Matermorphosis follows Gregora, an aging mother who supports her family by working as an exotic dancer. When she wakes up one morning in the body of a giant insect, her family, life and family-life descend into chaos. Gregora is feared, alienated, ignored, abused, left to die but never forgotten. Matermorphosis is a heart-breaking, gritty, poetic and postmodern play about ageism, misogyny, illness and death. One act. 9 characters. 7 actors. 4 women. 3 men.