My first thought upon entering the Kairos poolroom on Tuesday evening was that the atmosphere was perfect. Christmas lights cast the actors’ faces in a warm, yellow glow as they sat in an intimate semicircle of chairs onstage, their soft conversation mingling with the smooth jazz in the background. Some of them sipped water out of mason jars while highlighting their lines and they smiled at their peers who were filling the room.
I couldn’t help but think that I was about to see something pretty special. The evening proved me right. Julia Starr, Camille Brown, and Brandon Powell filled the small room with big characters, creative imagery, and poignant moments, making it another successful installment of Tuesdays in the Poolroom.
Starr kicked off the night with a reading of her gritty screenplay, “Crusty Punk,” that took us along on a journey of discovery, love and redemption with a disillusioned group of freight-hoppers, strangers to the law brought together through their need to escape their lives back home. Although the audience had to rely on the lines and stage directions to envision the film, the combination of the excellent writing and impressive acting made it easy to forget we were not with Alex, Soup and the others running through the woods and leaping onto moving trains. Although the script got heavy at times, Starr managed to alleviate the heartache with well-placed moments of joy and tenderness.
Next up was Brown, who performed three monologues written based on her interviews with campers at Camp Kesem. Camp Kesem is a weeklong wilderness camp for young people whose lives are affected by one of their parents having cancer. Brown had done some in depth character study and she thoughtfully embodied characters very different from herself. There was the 7 year old “Charlie” who wanted to be a ninja, not a princess, and “Dean,” the high school freshman who ran in order to forget his father’s suffering. Both were moving and complex, but Brown’s last portrayal left the audience in a stunned silence. The character, “Amelia”, was 15 when her father was diagnosed with brain cancer and 18 when Brown interviewed her. Brown’s writing and delivery were so natural that it felt as though Amelia herself were there, cautiously sharing her story of illness, pain, and sexuality with a room of strangers.
Powell lightened the mood with an irreverent reading from his book about Jack, a transgender high school student with a crush on the daughter of a celebrity preacher couple. In the excerpt, Jack accompanies the girl to her parents’ evangelical mega-church in the hopes of getting closer to her, but ends up unintentionally being called into the spotlight. Powell’s style was straightforward and clear, and he managed to portray the tension and humor of the scene with very little fluff or elaboration.
Leaving the buttery light of the poolroom for the darkness outside, I felt culturally satiated and impressed with the passion and creativity that I had just witnessed. For any artist or art-lover, I highly suggest you take an hour out of your Tuesday evening to take part in this unique weekly tradition.
Photo Cred: Student Organizing Committee for the Arts. Check out their website and upcoming here.