Moravian First Year Seminars in NYC
Saturday, September 24, 2011
The Maafa Suite - A Great Performance
For our third NYC adventure, we traveled to St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn to see a production of The Maafa Suite. When we arrived and went inside to find our seats there were actors everywhere, such as the Southern slave owner characters greeting us at the door as well as the slave characters crying and wailing as we walked through the hallway. Although the screams did startle me right at first, I thought it was a great way to start off the night and to get the audience involved with the show before it even began. First there was a short church service, which was certainly a very different experience from what I've seen before. After the service, it was time to start the show!
The Maafa Suite started out in Africa and showed the story of two young lovers who couldn't be together because of their tribes' feud. Then the story moved into the Africans' capture and life in slavery in America. It was very heart wrenching, and you could really feel the emotion from the actors. And although we, in this day and age, have thankfully never had to experience a time where slavery or racism was acceptable, from this show you could definitely see what slaves had to endure and all of the physical and mental pain they went through.
What I really liked about this show, aside from all of the emotion the actors brought to the stage, was the choreography and interaction with the audience. The dances were beautiful, especially the lovers' breathtaking dance in Act 1. And the large group dances were very well done, considering there had to be over 100 actors of many different ages! Another thing I really liked was the audience interaction. Many times the actors went out into the aisles to dance and sing, and during one scene, the slaves ran out and hid behind the seats and pillars to avoid the slave catchers. I noticed during the show that audience interaction worked both ways - the audience would react vocally to whatever was happening onstage, something that's usually looked down upon on Broadway. When one character announced that he would kill his enemy, the audience gasped loudly. When a young slave rebelled and made a djembe drum, the audience was cheering him on. I really enjoyed hearing the audience react to what was going on in the play, because it made you feel like you were experiencing the show, not just watching it.
My only complaints about the show have to do with the technical aspects of the production. The mic system didn't work very well and frequently cut out while actors were speaking. The scene changes were slow, and it was sometimes evident that not everything was running smoothly between scenes, which added to the show's already lengthy running time. But even though there were some technical flaws, the show was still great, and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to see it. This is a production I will never forget!
Posted by Katie Robbins at 1:38 PM