The Package Returns To The Stage Feb. 28-29

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The box arrives. Click to enlarge.
The box arrives. Click to enlarge.

Chattanooga audiences will have another chance to see The Package, a theatre/ performance art piece conceived by Trent Creswell, a junior at Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, on Feb. 28-29. Creswell describes the show as "an experimental, physical, non-verbal work which explores the beauty of adolescence, and how quickly it goes away, and how some boxes should never be opened."

Performances will be at 6:30 p.m., in the Sandra Black Theatre at the school, located at 1301 Dallas Road. Admission is $5. The box office opens at 5:30 p.m.

After premiering to full houses in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's Dance Studio last December, The Package will be performed at the Center for Creative Arts, sponsored by Performers, Artists, Parents and Advocates, Inc., a federally recognized, non-profit, charitable corporation that acts as the parent-teacher-student organization for CCA. Proceeds from the show will benefit PAPA and will be used to further the school's academic and artistic programs.

The three actors, Creswell and CCA students Cody Keown and Callie Johnson, are silent throughout the performance. With movements that are sometimes dance-like and sometimes more like silent acting, they are accompanied by a soundtrack ranging from Dosh, Sigur Ros and Regina Spector to Mortal Kombat and The Beatles.

The performance begins with the three actors essentially carefree until the arrival of a mysterious box labeled "Do Not Open." Of course, they open it. The physical content of the box is a banner, which says on four lines, "Learn / Take Risks / Love / 1 Must Die."

After opening the box and posting the banner, they move through a series of complications and conflicts drawn loosely from the actors' lives and representing their fears: a tornado, loss of love, death. There are lighter moments along the way -- like blending up real money into a smoothie, which the characters can't manage to drink – all the while living under the haunting prophecy that “1 Must Die.”

The characters are moved by the actors' real life fears, one reason Creswell says the performance would be different if it were performed by different actors. Keown, for example, is afraid of tornadoes and Creswell is obsessed with losing his youth and wanting things he used to have. Still, Creswell calls the story "allegorically autobiographical." Johnson says, "I try to use elements of myself. The character is me myself, without the things I know." Keown adds, "I feel like it's a character. If it were just me, it would freak me out."

All three actors helped create the script, and they have different takes on the package. According to Keown, "It's when you realize you're grown up, you're not a kid anymore. It's that moment when you grown up." Johnson adds, "Everything you do, every breath you take, is like opening a package. You can't know what will happen." And Creswell says, "It's all the information that I don't want, like global warming. I'm a nervous wreck because of all the things I know about. It's everything that I don't want to get myself into."

The performance began as a script written by Creswell and Johnson last spring. While interning with several theatre companies in Chicago last summer, Cresswell says he “fell in love with nonverbal, physical theatre." Back in Chattanooga, he returned to the script, writing production notes for a nonverbal performance, and got Keown involved.

Consistent with the open-ended nature of the material, the script itself allows the actors great latitude in how they perform it. "We have a story, we know what to do, but the steps to get it there are always different. We don't know what will happen," says Creswell.

The tornado. Click to enlarge.
The tornado. Click to enlarge.

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