story and photos by Christine Coester, special to The City Wire
ROGERS — Rogers Little Theater presented The Rant, the last in its 2nd Stage Diversity Unites series, over the weekend (June 15-17) at RLT’s historic home, Victory Theater in downtown Rogers.
The contemporary, new play written by Andrew Case and directed by Rick Pierson centers around the murder of a black teenager in a crime-ridden New York neighborhood. The play is carried out by a cast of four — a grieving mother, a prosecutor, a policeman and a journalist (Kalisha Handy, Hope Holmes, Justin Stewart and Jim Olmstead, respectively) — as the teen’s slaying, and other would-be crimes, are investigated. The Rant is an urban drama that explores the issues of racial profiling, sexism and truth perception in this performance of assumptions, where through the investigation of a young man’s murder, accessibility to the truth dissipates.
“The 2nd Stage Diversity Unites series addresses controversial topics, be it racial profiling, homosexuality … anything that’s not found in your traditional theater,” Pierson, the director, said. “This is no Mary Poppins.”
The Rant and other plays in the 2nd Stage series were performed as “theater in the round,” with the audience encircling the stage area. Two entrances at the back of the stage allowed the actors to enter and perform directly in the middle of the audience. With this layout, stage props are few, perhaps one or two chairs and a table.
For some actors, this adjustment can be cumbersome.
“Your performers have been taught to project outwards into the audience. With this, you have to be natural and act as though you are in a room. They train for years and then you tell them to forget it,” explained Pierson.
He handpicked the four actors who appeared in The Rant and even with the hiccup of having an actor replaced a mere two weeks ago, the performance went swimmingly.
Meanwhile, rehearsals are ongoing for RLT’s next main stage musical, Chicago, based on the book by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Ebb. Performances are July 27-29 and Aug. 2-5 and 9-12.