In considering how to approach this review of Our Time, a Collage of Records from Williams, directed by Omar Sangare, Professor of Theatre, I came to the conclusion that it was imperative to concentrate not only on the title of the production, which seems neutral enough at first glance, but how it was described in the official announcement. As a co-production of the Williams Theatre Department and “Sondheim@90@Williams,” to honor the 90th birthday of Stephen Sondheim as an illustrious member of Williams Class of 1950[1. for which the Williams Music Department also organized a day-and-a-half symposium about the composer and his work], Our Time was presented “in celebration” of this birthday. That final phrase might lead us to expect a revue of Mr. Sondheim’s most-loved tunes with a new, student-generated book encasing them, but Our Time was nothing of the sort.
Stephen Sondheim turns 90 today. His alma mater, Williams College, chose to honor her renowned alumnus with a musical production entitled Our Time, a Collage of Records from Williams, which brings life at the college between 1946-1950 (when Sondheim was a student there) back to life. This compilation of stories, devised Ilya Khodosh, '08, and Omar Sangare, has been chosen by current students; who, by research, selected stories to share from the stage. At the end of the show, there is also a story delivered by a video message by Stephen Sondheim, himself. Only two of the five scheduled performances took place before the spread of the Corona virus necessitated the cancellation of further performances. Happily, they were recorded on video, and Williams can now honor its son and audiences can enjoy this musical reminiscence.
Every spring for some years now the brilliant Polish actor-director-playwright-poet Omar Sangare has created extraordinary productions at the ‘62 Center for the Performing Arts with his acting students at Williams College, and they keep on getting better. All of them have been highly unusual. There was a double-cast A Streetcar Named Desire: by that I mean that it was performed by two separate casts almost, but not quite simultaneously. Far from an weird distraction, the device emphasized the universality of the play...and gave the many interested student actors a chance to perform. There was Gombrowicz’s classic proto-absurdist farce, Princess Iwona, which was also performed on Broadway.
The sixth United Solo Theater Festival has already been underway for over three weeks, but it will continue on up to November 22, offering an even greater wealth and variety of stage work than its predecessors. When its founder and artistic director, Omar Sangare, first considered the name, I was sceptical, but I'm happy to say that I've been proved wrong many times over. The name actually describes the nature of the festival to perfection, for every autumn, Dr. Sangare and his team unite the world of solo theater, bringing together over 150 fiercely independent actors, playwrights, directors, and other theater workers at Theatre Row from Canada, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Poland, Romania, all over the United State, and other countries.
The ultimate impression John Guare's Three Kinds of Exile left on me was that, although the selection of three subjects was pertinent, varied, and effective, the series could have been carried on indefinitely. Perhaps the different kinds of exile that have been experienced are not infinite, but, like the ocean floor, exile has not been fully explored, and, if there is a limiting number to its variation, we do not know it. Mr Guare's trilogy includes three exiles—all Central Europeans—who were actually displaced physically from the countries in which they were born and grew up, and that is the most obvious kind of exile...but what about the people who are exiles on their own native soil?
October and November are now firmly established as solo theater season in New York. United Solo, now in its third year, has grown by one third—to over 100 performances over a five-week period, from October 11 to November 18, 2012. Artistic Director Omar Sangare has been one of the leaders in solo theater for many years, not only in his native Poland, but in the US, where he has lived and worked since 2005, and he has attracted a stream of applications from solo practitioners all around the world, making United Solo the largest and best event of its kind.
Czesław Miłosz (proonouced Cheswav Meewosh), who died in 2004, was perhaps the best known of Polish literary men in the U.S., thanks to his 20-year tenure as a professor of Slavic languages at the University of Calfornia at Berkeley, where he carried on his work as an essayist, poet, fiction writer, and translator. While he could communicate and occasionally write in English, his poetry became familiar to American readers through translations published in magazines like The New Yorker. He became widely recognized as an ambassador from the land of exile, continually bearing the cross of his numerous emigrations. A Lithuanian Pole, he left for Warsaw under the German occupation. He received his education in Wilno (Vilnius), a city which was long a part of Poland, with many Polish associations, above all literary, since the two great nineteenth century poets, Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, like Miłosz, spent their formative years there. A diplomat of Communist Poland in the U.S. and France, he sought political asylum in 1951 and lived as an expatriate intellectual in Paris until 1960, when he emigrated to the United States and claimed citizenship in the great everywhere and nowhere of academia. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. After 1989 he divided his time between Berkeley and Kraków.