A melting pot of old and new combined to create the largely unseen arthouse production: UNBOUND: A Loose-Leaf Project on Racial and Social Justice. A 3-night Zoom affair from November 5th to 7th, it took inspiration from emotional poetry, iconic speeches, and shocking headlines to create a stirring overarching narrative.
Told over the course of eighteen vignettes, a small cast of Alfred University students played multiple characters across time, taking the audience for a journey from the past through to the future, in the form of endearing yet unrelentingly woven sincere and/or satirical pieces that produced a tapestry about what it is like in the heads of those fighting against racial and social injustices in the American climate.
Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, John Lewis, and Malcolm X were among the many individuals whose timeless pathos were used in this production as a way for the cast to indirectly challenge the audience to be a part of the necessary change and to “redeem the soul of our nation.”
While it would be impossible to take a singular segment from the total piece, the vignettes entitled “I Can’t Breathe,” “What’s My Title/What’s My Name,” and “The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto 24” were debatably the highlights of the evening. Carried by empathetic and charismatic actors, such as Aaliyah Lingard, Danny Michael, Zulaikha Yusuff, and Kirstin Van Renselaar, these segments were brought to life. The former two segments were highly emotional, while the latter was highly sardonic, which was rather indicative of the whole production, with the cast hopscotching through different relatable content to present a cohesive product.
Throughout, the production was fraught with technical complications, as one could expect from translating a project from a physical platform to an online one. From music running rampant, to “off-stage” actors reacting to seeing themselves “on-stage,” to complete Zoom crashes, these gaffs became gems as they provided a moment of reprieve from the uncertain times it took place during.
As the finale for the show, the cast shared their Statements of Commitment to help bring about change, equality, and justice, while encouraging the audience to do the same. Although there seemed to be a distinct lack of campus-wide publicity surrounding UNBOUND, with audience members averaging out to around twenty-six over its 3-night run, being mainly made up of friends and family of the cast and crew, it was an endearing addition that solidified the production as something tangible that would leave the audience wondering at their own parts to play. The production was recorded for posterity, causing those Statements of Commitment to hold a little more weight than if they had been passing remarks in the mezzanine.
Overall, the work of the entire cast and crew was not an easy task, but they managed to turn this loose-leaf project into a wholly needed production. If production crewmate and Fiat Lux’s own, Jeanni Floyd’s words are anything to go by, “It was definitely a different experience than any show that I have ever worked on in the past. Surprisingly, Zoom rehearsals are really draining but the outcome of this project was worth it.”
Congratulations on this project go out to Becky Prophet, Zachary Hamm, Debra MacCea, Autumn Maggi, Maureen Weiss, Marysia Josephson, Katie Maher, Shannon Klotz, Jeanni Floyd, Kirstin Van Renselaar, Aaliyah Lingard, Peter Fleming, Sophie Hopp, Zulaikha Yusuff, Kylie Simkins, Danny Michael, Lashay Santana and Aaron Muntner.
By Sam Sage