Sunday, March 11, 2007

Struck Dumb

Pilgrim opens festival of

Voices in the Theatre

at Boston Center for the Arts Black Box Theater
539 Tremont Street

Boston, MA 02159
Opens Wednesday, March 14!

Performances through April 7

Call BCA Box office for tickets and information (617)426-ARTS(2787)

Each production will be ASL-interpreted by Joan Wattman

The third in Pilgrim Theatre’s successful series Crossing Borders Festival / Voices brings together an extraordinary array of performative voices at Boston Center for the Arts’ Black Box Theatre. Each of the four productions proposes a different use of the actor’s tool. From a confrontation with aphasia (vocal impairment due to stroke); to what lies buried under what is NOT spoken; to a border line traversed in song; to the sound of a human psyche in a haunted recognition of oneself; the four productions offer a feast for the theatre-lover.

Gene-Gabriel Moore is a veteran actor. His solo performance of Struck Dumb will open the Crossing Borders III Festival. At 72 and a stroke survivor, he has spent the last 14 years learning to live with aphasia and has also founded and directed his own theatre company, Not Merely Players. Located at 7 Stages, a highly respected theatre in Altanta Georgia, under the artistic direction of Del Hamilton, Not Merely Players is the international professional theatre whose central focus is on people with disabilities and the performing arts.

Joseph Chaikin and Jean-Claude van Itallie's one-character classic, Struck Dumb, is a play about a day in the life of a man with aphasia. Del Hamilton, who worked with the theatre visionary theatre artist, Joseph Chaikin, for many years, directed the work. In this production, Gene-Gabriel Moore performs Adnan, a world-famous classical singer whose life is turned around and upside down after a stroke left him aphasic. It is drawn from the legendary director Chaikin's own life experiences. Strokes also swept over the life of 72-year-old Moore, who this year marked his 55th year in the professional theatre. Moore notes, "It is something of a miracle that I am returning to the stage. Not so very long ago my doctors were swearing up and down that I'd live out the rest of my days a vegetable."

The path the play undertook on its journey to Atlanta is itself the stuff of American theatre chronicles. It was commissioned in the 'eighties by the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and performed by the late Joseph Chaikin first at the Taper and then at American Place Theater in New York City. Van Itallie has described the work as "a theatrical metaphor for Adnan's mind."

All through the 'nineties, 7 Stages brought Chaikin here to direct plays by Miller, Beckett, Albee, Ionesco, Van Itallie, Shepard. Moore and Chaikin were teenage actors in New York, in the 'fifties, but they did not become friends until Del Hamilton and Faye Allen re-introduced them over a meal of east Indian cuisine in Atlanta. In the last days of rehearsal of Arthur Miller's "Broken Glass," the play Chaikin directed shortly before his death, his last, he and Moore agreed that he should perform the character Adnan. Two years after Chaikin's death, Moore, who became disabled in the wake of a tumor in the environs of his brain stem and, during surgery, the first of three strokes, met with playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie, who also urged him to take up the challenge.

Aphasia is a communication impairment. Van Itallie once said, "It has been said that one does not usually recover from aphasia, but that, by dint of hard work and time, one recovers with aphasia." The intelligence is intact, but speaking takes a little more time, speaking is often very difficult.

Struck Dumb opens March 14 at BCA’s Black Box Theatre. The opening performance will be ASL-interpreted by Joan Wattman. Performances are Wednesday, March 14 through Saturday, March 17 at 8 pm. On Saturday March 17 and Sunday March 18 there will be matinees at 2 p.m. After the Sunday performance there will be a post-show reception and symposium about aphasia with actor Gene-Gabriel Moore, playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie, Jerome Kaplan of the Boston Aphasia Society and members of Pilgrim Theatre.

Tickets: Wed. Special Sliding Scale from $5

Thurs. and Matinees $20 / $15 student & senior

Fri. and Sat. $23 / $15 student & Senior