Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
May 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Laughing Through The Tears

ae BlackSnowCabrillo’s ‘Black Snow’ puts protagonist through series of unfortunate events; hilarity ensues

Reality and satire are the same,” said dissenting Soviet writer Vladimir Voinovich in reference to his country.

“I thought that was a great quote,” says David Ohanesian, dramaturg at Cabrillo College Theater Arts. “It made me think about today in the United States, and I was thinking about how many of us get our news and our sense of American life through satiric comedies these days—and how it almost makes it easier to swallow the indignities.”

It’s also a quote that applies particularly well to “Black Snow,” Cabrillo College Theater Arts’ fall production. The play—which runs Nov. 2-18—is a comedy that follows a playwright’s ill-fated collaboration with a legendary theater director in a climate of government oppression.

As it turns out, the play draws heavily upon its own origins. “Black Snow”—adapted into a play by American playwright Keith Reddin in 1993—is based on the fictionalized memoir of Mikhail Bulgakov, a Soviet Russian writer and playwright who was active in the first half of the 20th century.

“He had a big 10-year interlude working with the Moscow Art Theatre, but by 1929 his plays were banned by the Soviet Bolsheviks,” explains director Robin Aronson. “So then finally he wrote a letter to Stalin basically saying, ‘My plays can’t get produced, I’m being destroyed, I’m facing destitution and death.’”

Stalin answered Bulgakov’s plea by sending him back to the Moscow Art Theatre. “And then he just had this hellacious four-year experience trying to get one play produced by the theatre, and the rehearsals never ended, and they could never get the play up; when they finally did it lasted for seven performances, and then the censors shut it down again,” says Aronson. “Whether it’s the critics, the censors, or the theater practices of the time, this poor oppressed playwright is just completely demolished—but he took his pain and created a satire.”

The element of satire bridges the gap between the play’s period setting and the audience’s modern context. “In Bulgakov’s time, you couldn’t make any overt political comments; you had to do it through satire,” says Ohanesian. “There is something contemporary in the portrayal of the sort of machine that this guy has fallen into.”

The most noticeable departure from the text in Cabrillo’s adaptation of “Black Snow” is the decision to split the main character of Sergei—the Bulgakov figure—into two separate parts. “The way the play is structured, the character narrates his own experience, so in the course of the play he’s both living the experience and narrating the experience,” says Aronson, who used that distinction to split the character into narrator-Sergei and participant-Sergei.

“You can tell that my character is relating it as a past event,” says Davis Banta, who plays the narrator-Sergei. “So he knows these outcomes and what they’re going to lead to, whereas Alex [the other Sergei]’s character is still naïve, and so it’s kind of playing with the dichotomy of where we’re coming from—sometimes I relive a scene with a sense of what it’s going to lead to, or when a plot element happens it’s hitting him hardest because it’s for the first time.”

Considering “Black Snow” is a play about the theater, it makes sense that the cast and crew would be able to relate to the narrative. What’s interesting is how the process of producing a play informs the actual performance of it. “This is a very large ensemble piece—we’re cramming about 18 people plus tech into a smaller space, so sometimes it’s a little chaotic, but that also kind of lends to the sense of chaos that’s inherent in the play,” says Banta.

But everyone—not just actors—can relate to the desire to see one’s life’s work through to completion, and furthermore, to see that work appreciated. “I think of Mikhail Bulgakov,” says Aronson. “Of his dying in disappointment, and feel somehow that he is with us, that he actually knows what we’re doing and is happy and proud that his story is being told, that his work is alive in the world, and that audiences can enjoy it at last.” 


“Black Snow” runs Nov. 2-18 at the Cabrillo College Black Box Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. $19/general, $17/seniors and students, $12/under 10. 479-6154. Visit cabrillovapa.com. Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival