‘Polaroid Stories’ mixes mythology with reality

University students in FAA rehearse “Polaroid Stories” in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday.

By Brittney Nadler

What happens when mythmaking collides with reality? That is the ultimate question in “Polaroid Stories,” a play with poetry, profanity and prostitutes that journeys into the lives of street youth on an abandoned pier in the outskirts of town.

Inspired by “Metamorphoses,” a Latin narrative poem, “Polaroid Stories” explores modern dangers of street living while also detailing classic mythological tales.

As part of the Illinois Theatre Series, the play runs on select days from Thursday to Oct. 12 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Each show starts at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday shows starting at 3 p.m, and

tickets are $10 for students.

“We’re trying to survive while still having lives that have meaning, love and joy,” said Shawn Pereira, third year MFA acting grad student who plays the character Orpheus. “We all have conflicting interests that don’t mesh up well, which leads to some people’s demise and other people to become the thing they truly wanted to be. It kind of turns into this tragic, but yet beautiful, Greek mythology.”

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The characters seek comfort and community in a bad mess of a neighborhood. Based on interviews with actual street youth and prostitutes, the characters lead lives of lies, anger and confusion that cause them to question what is real and where the truth lies.

“It was kind of tricky at times, but it was a lot of fun getting to where we are now,” said Katherine Quin, second year MFA student in FAA and dramaturg, or researcher, for the production. “The fact that not many people are well versed in Greek mythology — just learning and understanding the culture and why these characters are the way they are and trying to help the actors understand the relevance of that power, or lack thereof.”

Quin said of the 14 shows she has worked in, “Polaroid Stories” has allowed her to utilize her skills the most and has made her the happiest.

The cast of 10 has been rehearsing since the first day of class and rehearsals have been going “extremely well,” Pereira said.

“Our director, Lisa (Gaye Dixon), is amazing to work with,” he said. “She doesn’t like to give actors misleading notes and goals … she works with the actors, talks to us about the situation; it’s just an amazing process to work with her.”

The show includes drugs, alcohol, murder, suicide, sex and love — themes that today’s youth can relate to, he added. The set, lights and sounds are “in your face” and had to be modified just last week after the set designers discovered the space was more condensed than previously thought.

The actors had to reblock, or reconfigure, their movements within the set space, but everyone has been very accommodating, Pereira said.

David Monahan, senior acting major in the BFA program who plays “G,” a character based on Zeus, is excited to perform with a diverse cast and said the show has many events happening simultaneously.

“Some of these scenes cross and meet and some don’t,” Monahan said. “It’s about people trying to find a way to survive in the world. They’re looking for love, they’re looking for safety, they’re looking for a way out.”

Wigasi Brant is a third-year MFA acting major who plays “D,” a character based on Dionysus, the Greek god known for wine, fertility and sex. Brant has previously appeared in “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “Remember the Titans” and “The Blind Side,” among others.

“Aesthetically, it’s just a beautiful show,” Brant said. “It speaks to a lot of the struggles and insecurities young people face. It will shed light on struggles other young people have faced.”

And the production doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to portraying challenges in a real way. 

“It’s a very loud production,” Quin said. “I wouldn’t say vulgar, but it’s very colorful to say the least. Seeing people react to it because so many people have such silly ideas about theater, they think it’s going to be snooty, they think it’s going to be all clean-cut and pretty lace kerchiefs — but it’s not. It’s going to be a bunch of rowdiness and craziness so I’m looking forward to seeing how it takes people out of their comfort zones.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected].