The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Non-traditional theater blossoms

At 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday in Roberts Theater, Grinnell actors will perform—but not like your typical mainstage. The play will last no longer than 45 minutes. They will not recite monologues or pause for laughter. They will present “Flowers of E,” an image-based based performance inspired by “The Flowers of Evil,” poetry of Charles Baudelaire.

The visually-stunning 'Flowers of E' focuses less on dialogue and more on the imagery of the stage to communicate with the audience. - Courtney Moore
Director Craig Quintero, Theater and Dance, chose Baudelaire for his dynamic emotional expression. “Baudelaire’s poetry is dark, evocative, brooding, but also, frail and human,” Quinter said. “It’s tough writing, and because it’s tough, it’s moving.”

Although the show grew from this textual influence and the final product includes poetic recitations, rehearsals began with no script and no rigid plan. The play is intentionally the result of ongoing artistic collaboration. The images and moments that form the piece were entirely devised over the course of the rehearsal process. The director, designers, actors and a group of visiting Taiwanese performers experimented and engaged with one another in the creation of different visual spectacles. “We were able to draw from the collective creativity of everyone involved,” actress Gillian Hemme ’10 said.

From collaboration to the stage, image-based performance distinguishes itself from conventional drama in many ways. It is free from the boundaries of a script or even a concrete definition of its own aims. Traditional acting techniques are out the window. “Performers in Craig’s show are just like the light—they’re something that exists on the stage,” professional dancer Li-Mei Chung said.

Rhythm, movement and time meld with costumes, music and lights. “We create the inner world,” collaborator Jie-Fa Huang said. “It all comes together. You don’t know the recipe, but suddenly, everything mixes.”

The resulting imagery, described by watchers as “chilling,” “beautiful” and “unforgettable” in turn, does not produce a clear or simple message, but encourages the audience to create one all its own. “This show reveals what’s happening inside of us—the music of everyday life,” Quintero said.

Grinnell is only the first stop in a series of international performances. Over Spring Break, the images created here in Iowa will travel to Paris with a new company of actors. In June, “Flowers of E” will move to Taiwan’s National Experimental Theater, and finally, in July, back to France for the Avignon Off Festival.

It’s not shocking that this production is worthy of wide circulation. “It’s like the performance of a demented magician. But so much more,” said Brenna Ross ’13, the show’s sound board operator said, after watching six rehearsals.

Hemme addressed the richness of the work as she described the pervading emotions of the play’s imagery. “Loneliness and false hope shape my character. I experience growing older, being left behind, finding beauty in unlikely places, crushing defeat and realizing that home can stop being home,” she said.

“Flowers of E” promises to deliver all the imagination that went into its creation and will be followed by a brief talk aback after the show in Roberts Theater.

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