The Masquerade Theatre presented the inaugural performance of their New Works Series this February 5th. To provide “a platform for contemporary artists to present new and thought-provoking pieces that help us explore our humanity,” the production team selected Beatrice Alonna’s Nescience.
Ms. Alonna called the piece a “a comedy that presents a serious subject” during the talk back. The playwright expatiated on that premise in the playbill. She described Nescience as:
…a compilation of stories that surround the world-wide epidemic of stereotypes…Nescience the word could be defined as a lack of knowledge, or ignorance. These instances presented are surrounded around the nescient conclusions made by the human race.
When researching the play, Ms. Alonna asked people if they’d been stereotyped. “Everyone I asked had a story,” she said. When constructing the dialog, she decided not to present each narrative from the perspective of the person who shared it with her. She made this artistic choice in order to “express the truth in the fact that everyone is often misrepresented.”
The play followed a ten-scene structure. Each vignette contributed to the larger story. Ms. Alonna credited the Masquerade Theatre’s production team for aiding with the sequencing.
Unlike Masquerade Theatre’s other virtual performances, they pre-recorded Nescience for broadcast. It allowed Ms. Alonna, who also directed the play, to incorporate outdoor scenes into the show. It also facilitated the popping up on screen of text messages the characters sent to one another.
Recording the show beforehand also allowed Tommy Balne to work his technical magic. He produced a gripping video montage for Grace Crosby’s solo performance of “Scream.” Ms. Crosby wrote, sang and accompanied herself on acoustic guitar for this folk-rock piece.
When Ms. Alonna presented the song to the show’s producers, it moved Megan Knowlton Balne. She said that she’d listened to it “a couple hundred times.” Tommy Balne compared it to a 1960s protest song. Its inspiration led to Mr. Balne’s most powerful video work yet.
Those interested can watch Ms. Crosby perform the song sans Mr. Balne’s visuals on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/MhnCNvUauOc.
Nescience would serve as a good educational tool for grammar school students. In several scenes, young actors Icesis Gonzales-Hughes, Isaiah Milton, Aniyah Poole and Giovanni Ramos portrayed schoolchildren. Based on comments in the Crowdcast chat, Abra Watson, the actress who played their teacher, Miss Mahogany, became a fan favorite.
The classroom setting served as an effective symbol of the necessity of educating society about stereotyping. Ms. Watson’s comedic portrayal of Miss Mahogany captured the subconscious misconceptions people carry. The playwright showed how the students recognized the biases that she didn’t know she had.
Ms. Alonna presented an outstanding twist on stereotypes in “The Microaggression.” Performer Miles Arthur sat down on a bench next to a woman (played by Leah Cohen). Ms. Cohen politely smiled at him and resumed looking at her phone. He nervously called the police. She confronted him for assuming her dangerous.
Perhaps in a first for theatre, a playwright incorporated a game show into the performance. Miss Mahogany fielded questions from the host (Emily Little) regarding her understanding of stereotyping.
Nascience included a variety of musical material, as well. In addition to Ms. Crosby’s powerful song, the entire cast performed opening and closing musical numbers. Hip Hop fans would enjoy Natacha DeCastro, Icesis Gonzales-Hughes and Aniyah Poole performing together on “Mixed.”
The show’s other cast members included Hannah Hanselman, Ishanna Rodriguez and Isaiah Showell. Prince Slomo and Simon Hamilton managed the music productions.
After the show, audience members asked the performers how the show impacted them. Abra Watson replied, “It made me look at myself…I don’t think we examine ourselves as being the perpetrators of stereotyping.”
Nescience showed that people of different faiths, cultures and ethnicities have more commonalities than differences. For individuals to recognize that, as Ms. Alonna and Ms. Watson noted, “It starts with a conversation.” One hopes that Ms. Alonna’s work will inspire people to have those discussions. The enthusiasm that came through in the Chat comments gave reason for optimism that they will.
The Masquerade Theatre’s website contained the following thoughts from Ms. Alonna:
It is extremely interesting to me that such a controversial topic could be found humorous, but Nescience the play does just that, the comedic take on racial stereotypes allows the human race to open their eyes to how they see other people. This production is truly an experience that could very well be an aid to ending the epidemic. Compiling these stories together in a creative way has taught me a lot; and I pray that some of these truths can be presented in a way they can serve as a revelation to the cultures that experience it.
Nescience runs virtually through the Masquerade Theatre until February 7th.