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UI’s newest Gallery Series play Mémoire addresses how memories are colored by time

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | NOVEMBER 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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Although playwright Micah Arial James was only 4 years younger than her brother when their parents divorced during their childhoods, she said, her and her brother’s memories of the experience don’t quite match.

“We had completely different perspectives,” she said. “We realized what happened when we were 7 or 12 somehow still affects our everyday lives, which is my thought of memory.”

This thought grew into James’ play Mémoire: A Meditation, which will be performed in the Gallery Series premièring at 8 p.m. today in the Theater Building’s Theater B and running through Dec. 2.
James’s “meditation on memory,” Mémoire follows an estranged brother and sister who, after their old home is ravished by a storm, relive their childhood memories while cleaning up the wreckage and searching for a mysterious something in the midst of it.

“He’s very resistant to remember,” said Jaret Morlan about his character, Eliot, who has left his sister and family behind in search of a new life. “There comes a point where you have to do what feels best for you and not always be concerned with how it will affect your family, and I think he’s a very relatable character in that sense. But that brings with it some emotional baggage.”

In a surrealist twist, the siblings begin to experience memories from their parents’ tumultuous marriage, which sheds light on their situation.

“Their relationship is basically a mirror,” said Morris Hill, who plays the father, Furnas. “It seems like it takes a memory for each one of them to understand what’s going on in the present and to actually be present.”

Director Rachel Howell said jumping from present day to memory on the stage was a hurdle, ultimately achieved through the use of style, color, music, sophisticated lighting effects, and teamwork.

“It was a fun challenge,” she said. “That’s what’s great about theater: If you think outside the box, you can pretty much do anything.”

But the cast and crew members said they didn’t have to get too far out of their comfort zone to embody the play’s central issues, from sibling and marriage conflicts to the sting and inconsistency of memory.

“Everyone who’s in the show is able to bring a personal experience into the show, which is the point of it,” James said. “I think we as a community and a culture should take memory into account more often. A society that’s conscious of its past is a healthy society.”

Howell said James’s work hit home with her right away.

“When I first got my hands on the script, I told Micah just how honest and perfect some of these monologues and moments were,” she said. “For example, there’s one point a character is talking about digging a grave and not feeling anything and how frustrating that was, and I had the exact same experience.”

Howell said she believes Mémoire will evoke similar responses in audiences.

“I think everybody in the audience will be able to find something in common with every single character,” she said. “They’ll be able to sit there and watch them and say, ‘I did that once, I thought that once, I felt that once.’ ”

UI Gallery Series Mémoire: A Meditation

When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday, 2 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: Theater Building Theater B
Admission: Free with student IDs, $5 general admission


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