By Rev. Brandon Ducharme
Eye-to-Eye, Heart-to-Heart is a theatre performance designed to break the fourth wall and transform the often singular experience of watching theatrical performances into one of mutual collaboration.
“If we don’t see eye to eye, we definitely need heart,” so begins the diverse collection of scenes that aims to educate the RCC community about, “…how we are the same, how we are different, and what matters most to us.”
“The fact that we are human may fail us as a bridge sometimes”, said one of the troupe’s 15 players. Here, we find the central problem that this project of RCC’s Diversity Board has undertaken, exploring the community issues that arise on our inclusive campus.
Through a cast that ultimately stretches to more than 30, according to the official program, Eye-to-Eye, Heart-to-Heart has integrated modern theatre with techniques borrowed from Brazilian Theatre and the field of Drama Therapy as a form of dialogue in order to promote understanding according the program provided.
At the core of Eye-To-Eye, Heart-To-Heart, is a philosophy that dialogue can facilitate change. As their program states, “Theatre for change, in our changing culture,”
The first level of dialogue the troupe focuses on is simply that of theatre itself. The act of attending a show is a one way form of interaction. The group has expanded on that by adding multiple layers.
To begin with, they hand out surveys to audience members and then integrate the responses into the performance. Further, the cast on occasion called upon the audience to add their own input or subject matter, in much the same way as improvisational theatre groups field material from the crowd.
Though far different from many other performances, the cast allows members of the audience to join them on stage and even direct the action of the scene.
Performances like these take many risks by attempting to push the established boundaries of theatre to a new dimension. Sometimes though taking a risk doesn’t pay off.
During their January 26th performance at RCC’s HEC Presentation Hall, the audience was unresponsive which led to a few long silences on stage.
Eye-to-Eye, Heart-to-Heart is designed to facilitate communication and, yet if the audience is unwilling to communicate, then it is difficult to achieve the dialogue they seek. Confronted with a tepid audience rarely willing to share, the players were readily filled the gap. “Silence is OK, it means you’re thinking,” quipped one performer.
The performance ended as it began, with a performance utilizing the entire cast speaking one at a time to convey the same message. In a show of multicultural unity, the cast bowed together, ending their first of only two performances. There is no word yet as to whether they plan to do more, but according to Bobbi Kidder, the program’s director, everyone is excited about it.