By Megan Bowers, Staff Writer
While most performers are used to portraying one role per show, Torie Wiggins was given the daunting task of depicting 36 different characters in the one-woman show “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.”
The play was written and originally performed by Anna Deavere Smith in response to the Rodney King beating and the riots that followed in 1991.
Smith wrote a total of 59 monologues, all of which are verbatim speeches and responses to interviews she conducted with individuals connected to the incident. All the monologues are then performed by the same person.
“Somehow having one person play all of those people gives it a central humanity, while at the same time representing 36 different viewpoints,” said Julia Guichard, chair of the Theatre Department.
The script attempts something powerful by placing voices of a victim next to the voice of an assailant. It gives the chance for everyone’s message to be heard.
“I think the message here is that there needs to be developed a certain sense of entity before we can even have these conversations, so we are able to acknowledge all the voices, even those who we think are wrong or right,” actress and adjunct professor Torie Wiggins said. “From there, we will be able to come up with some sort of resolve or solution.”
Wiggins has performed this twice before, once at the Aronoff Center for the Arts and once with the Know Theatre of Cincinnati.
Her experience has made this show much easier to prepare for since she had already narrowed down the characters’ roles and intentions. However, when she first came onto the project, it was an intense process.
“It’s a really fine line between imitation and character building,” said Wiggins. “Some of the characters are well-known figures of popular culture, some of them have live video of them speaking in interviews and for some of them, there was nothing. So I had to build on what I got in the script.”
The project, which is being co-sponsored by the Department of Theatre, the College of Creative Arts, the Dean’s office and the President’s office, has been brought to Miami in an effort to address issues of social justice.
“We’re out here in this little bubble, so I think its really important to have these kind of conversations,” said Guichard. “I believe that art is a great way to spark those conversations because it makes you feel something, and then we can have a conversation about that.”
The project also coincides with a greater push for inclusion and diversity all across Miami. This show follows the “Every 28 Hours” project, which also hoped to start a conversation about issues of social justice.
“We’re trying to do a series of programs where folks can interact and talk about all the various issues around social justice, inclusion, equality and freedom, from dialogues to plays, and all of them are to encourage conversation and deeper thinking about issues,” said Dr. Ronald Scott, Associate Vice President for Institutional Diversity.
Scott emphasized that although the events in “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” happened years ago, they are still relevant today. The department believes that one of the ways out of this is to discuss, learn and move ahead.
“The fact that we’re twenty some odd years afterward and we can still find parallels is so disheartening,” said Wiggins “But if this is something that can help people process and start conversations about what is happening now, from an art perspective or a theatrical perspective, then it’s worth it.”
Wiggins hopes that over the course of two hours, she will be able to capture the attention of the audience and keep them thinking about the important issue of social justice long after they leave the theater.
“Everybody’s got a contribution,” said Wiggins. “Even in a protest there are some people who are really good at standing in the front and shouting and chanting, and then some people are really good at making signs. It is a privilege and an honor to find what I love and to be able to use what I do best, for social justice and change.”
Wiggins believes a college campus is the perfect place to start these conversations because college students are still transitioning into what they believe and are willing to think critically about all different issues.
“I hope they have questions,” said Wiggins. “I hope they have continuing conversation. I hope that this show stays with them at least on the car ride home.”
“Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 3-5, in Studio 88. Tickets are free, but required.