Through Our Eyes

A summer performing and visual arts program at a detention center in Brooklyn, NYC, “Through Our Eyes” featured 5 original student plays written by students in collaboration with their teachers and professional playwrights. The student plays were autobiographical in nature, often exploring real-life experiences and events through dialogue, monologue, and narrative. Students were assembled into production teams, and team leaders along with a teacher were placed in charge of the various components of the performance. I worked with students in writing two of the plays, painting 5 wooden doors, designing and constructing the set, and creating 3 hand-drawn animations projected onto scrims mounted within the set. Other components included: Choreographed dances (Crystal Stewart), original songs (Andrew Brown), and a mural (Gary Johnson). Produced and directed by Sean Turner, who also made this play the subject of his dissertation research. Below are I describe some of these components in greater detail, 

Performance of the 5 plays with pre-recorded monologue interludes (written by Tek). Below is text from one of the monologues:
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They hear me, but they don’t listen / They see me/ But they see through me / They never speak to me / But down at me / They don’t understand so they fearThey hate / I don’t blame them / I don’t blame them They see us as what we appear to be / What for some reason / We imagine ourselves to be. 

5 Doors painted front and back and mounted on wheeled bases, used as moving props during the performance. A group of students first worked to create simple stick drawing represented each line of the play. From these drawings, we derived a set of symbols to represent the protagonist and antagonist of each play as well as other relevant elements from the stories. The back of the door represents the potential transformation of the protagonist of the story, as s/he internalizes image of her autobiography in an act of overcoming. 

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Digital Remix of Images for Doors; Presented at American Educational Research Association Annual Conference; Philadelphia, 2014

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One of the three animations with voice-over of one student reading her play, Crack’d Roots. Another animation from the play “Oranges” can be seen below in a separate video.

With limited access to construction materials as per detention center regulations, and because the set would need to be constructed and deconstructed in a single day, I created a set design based on columns of glued-together cardboard boxes with painted reams of paper stretch between them to create buildings, representative of scenes from the plays. Over 300 cardboard boxes were used to construct the set. A 36′ mural hung above the cardboard buildings, along with foam panels painted to look like brick walls, and two scrim, which were used for reverse-projects of animation and other cinematic elements during the performance.

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