2000-08-26 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance
By Susan Hartenstein

Stellar cast of the RAA/RTC Theater Workshop “Only the Shadow Knows.”
Stellar cast of the RAA/RTC Theater Workshop “Only the Shadow Knows.”

Clive was correct. "Boffo" was indeed the word for it. "Only the Shadow Knows", the original play created by the children of the Summer 2000 Theater Arts Program, was a pleasure to behold. Performed on Saturday, August 19, this production was the culmination of the Rockaway Artists Alliance/Rockaway Theatre Company workshop held in Fort Tilden in association with Gateway National Recreation Area. Under the experienced instruction and encouraging guidance of professionals, children of this community chose characters and wrote a play around those characters. They learned how to build and decorate a set, how to create the magical effects of stage lighting and sound. They learned about projecting the voice and ideas to an audience, and they received instruction on how to move on a stage. They also saw what teamwork could do. They were afforded the opportunity of expressing themselves publicly in the exciting medium of the stage.

The imaginative production that resulted from this was an affecting combination of innocent sincerity and technical sophistication. The poignancy of the play’s message and the obvious thrill and pride the children felt in participating in this unique experience brought more than one audience member to tears. It is difficult to decide, in fact, who enjoyed themselves most – the exuberant actors, the audience (composed in large measure of proud parents), or the proud instructors. Parents also participated as members of the technical crew.

Cloaked in the plot line of a mystery, the play’s theme spoke to the achievement of peace and to recognizing and welcoming the complexity of the human character. The rich, verdant forest scenery, which included a painted backdrop and constructed trees, perfectly set the mood of the mystery. The lighting crew created such special effects as the flares and flashes of battlefield warfare. Sound effects also contributed much to the play.

All involved in the project are to be congratulated. John Gilleece, director, and Geoff Rawling, art director, first proposed an attempt to expand the cultural horizons of the children (and adults) of Rockaway by offering a theater and arts program. Alex Romero and Billy Garrett of Gateway provided the necessary support and cooperation. In addition to Gilleece and Rawling, several members of RTC and RAA added their expertise and encouragement. Three thousand dollars worth of lighting equipment in the Post Theater was generously donated by Ark and Allen, Inc., a Flushing, Queens theater company with a social conscience, whose web site is www.arkandallen.org. This equipment made those dandy lighting effects possible. Parents of the children gave generously of their time, support and trust. Largest kudos go to the children, whose imagination, talent and intelligence created this production with the help of the adults.

John Gilleece says that this is one of the first joint ventures between RAA and RTC to actually be performed at the Post Theater. He hopes it grows into many joint ventures for children and adults. Gilleece and Rawling recognize that future programs like this are possible with the help and support of this community. They ask that members of the community encourage their local political leaders to fund such programs and offer grants to those who create them. They urge parents and others to speak to school board members about instituting this type of program in the local elementary schools and high schools. Community input, they state, will help this effort continue.

Important reminders:

  • August 31 is the deadline for submission of artwork for the RAA Queens Center Mall Show. Contact Geoff at the RAA office for details.
  • Artists are invited – yea, encouraged – to set up easels etc. to paint and/or display work at Rockaway Viking Sail 2000, September 3.
  • *Note – All children are encouraged to join Geoff Rawling in painting a Viking mural during the festivities.

The Rockaway Theatre Company, the folks who have been bringing you thrills, chills, tears and laughter in Fort Tilden the last three years, are holding their fundraiser Saturday, August 26, 7 –11 p.m. at the Post Theater. A $5 donation will bring you refreshments, games, art and countless opportunities to expose the "ham" lurking inside you. Scenes from productions will also be performed. Come have fun while contributing to an essential entity in the cultural development of Rockaway.

Farewell until next week. May Thor be with you!


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