Founnyhouse of a Negro

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Funnyhouse of a Negro
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*2011 Prague Quadrennial Selection

Adrienne Kennedy
Michael John Garcés
Lianne Arnold
Hunter Wells
Carla Linton
Nancy Cao
CalArts Ensemble Theatre II

Written by :
Directed by :
Scenic & Video Design by :
Costume Design by :
Lighting Design by :
Sound Design by :
Venue :

Funnyhouse of a Negro chronicles the last hours of the life of Sarah, a young black woman plagued by issues of race, alienation and identity.  Suffering from severe mental illness and self-hatred, she is visited by her many Selves – both fictional and historical characters including Jesus, Queen Victoria and Patrice Lumumba, the murdered Congolese independence leader and first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo.  The play ends in a devastating and frightening suicide.

In developing the piece, we made no pre-determinations on the meaning of the text, but kept it open for exploration during rehearsal.  Therefore, I designed a set that was expressive, yet open to interpretation.  Thinking about identity and image, funnyhouses and the gaze, I created a space to be intimate yet isolating at the same time.  Mirrors everywhere with live application of white paint applied by hand to abolish reflection.  The video design highlighted the psychological decay of Sarah and the fracturing of her Selves as they transform from distinct to ominously homogenous.  Two projectors with moving mirrors protrude into the space from above shooting images every direction.  Working in conjunction with the set, the projections thrown on the mirrors broken up by the white, smeared paint further fracture the image and distort identity in a grotesque fashion.