Line Breaks 2011: The Wrap Up

There’s not much time to recover from Line Breaks 2011 as we gear up for our first First Wave graduation celebration last Saturday, but the OMAI staff is doing our level best to recuperate.

This year’s Line Breaks Festival featured eight evenings of student work, plus the world premiere of Artist-In-Residence Rafael Casal’s solo show. Our audiences ranged from a group that mistook The Limp for an “alternative version” of CTM’s The Little Prince to Chancellor Martin and other First Wave friends and family. We saw the First Cohort gather on stage for their last time as a group, watched soon-to-be ticket holders lined up hours before each show, and befriended the amazing Overture Center staff who hosted us for more than a week.

Reactions to the shows were energetic, positive, and thoughtful, with talkbacks stretching to accommodate amazing conversations sparked by the performances. We were proud to welcome first time First Wave audience members – and many of them came back night after night!

Danez Smith and Jasmine Mans kick-started the festival with their amazing solo shows, For Those Who Pray in Closets and Bloody Mary, respectively. After the show’s preview at last year’s Line Breaks, we were thrilled to see more from Danez. His piece inspired laughter, tears, and pretty much everything in between (including some very enthusiastic reactions to Beyonce’s cameo). Jasmine proved herself a triple threat as she danced, acted, and gave life to her beautifully written script. Together, the shows offered a starkly moving reflection on faith and its intersection with everyday life and identity.

Cohort Four blew everyone away with Ctrl + Alter + Del, a powerful ensemble piece that literally held a mirror to contemporary social interactions (or lack thereof) in an age of digital media. This rock-solid debut featured clever, insightful writing, preternaturally talented performances, and an astonishingly real sense of unity that will certainly propel the Fourth Cohort to amazing heights.

An Evening of Music and Movement showcased a handful of First Wave’s dancers and musicians. The eclectic yet cohesive night featured everything from genre-shattering collaborations to a spontaneous on-stage dance party, revealing the depth of talent within the program.

Solo Shows, Part 2 presented works by Asia Elliot, William Giles, and Gayle Smaller. Elliot proved an unbridled force of nature as she weaved her way through jobs and school in Working Class, which contained an assortment of larger-than-life characters and a few moments of truly startling introspection. William Giles performed Still Born to a rapt audience, offering a heart rendering exploration of culture and growth across seemingly different worlds. In the fast-paced In Other News, Gayle Smaller presented the lives and stories of individuals living in North Minneapolis, casting a harsh light on the distinction between real life and real news.

The First Cohort took the stage for Dog Years: A Wisconsin Experience, also known as Line Breaks 2011’s hottest ticket. Performing to a packed house, the First Cohort offered a unique look at four years of college – from their perspective. Dog Years was honest, earnest, and hilarious, and elicited a marathon talkback that covered everything from past experiences to future plans.

Kelsey Van Ert’s Birdies managed to be both endearing and staggering as she offered a genuine exploration of emerging sexuality among three childhood friends. A versatile performer, Van Ert brought charm and sensitivity to the terrifying time between childhood and adolescence. In one of the festival’s best pairings, Cydney Edwards followed with her ensemble show, Get A Room. Edwards’ piece blended traditional theater with improv and audience participation in a compelling look at women and sex in contemporary society. Get A Room featured an extremely talented multi-cohort cast and a powerful script written by the entire cast.

Festival headliner Rafael Casal wrapped up an already amazing week with his solo show, The Limp. Casal and the Getback Band inhabited an intricate set (designed by Office Manager Lauren Rutlin) as they employed music, movement, and acting to create an exceptional piece of theater, expertly directed by Artistic Director Chris Walker. The Limp examines relationships on multiple levels and engages audiences in a high-stakes exploration of the psyche. This piece firmly establishes Rafael Casal as a preeminent playwright and multi-talented artist.

If you missed Line Breaks 2011, you missed an incredible week of student performances and new works. But as always, we’ll be back next year – watch for more Line Breaks action in 2012, and in the meantime, we’re planning yet another action-packed First Wave summer.