First Draft Reviews: Solitary

Comment your first draft reviews of Solitary here.

5 Comments on “First Draft Reviews: Solitary

  1. Sitting through a production of Solitary: an exploration of Isolation feels like witnessing a panic attack come to life. The one-man show performed and written by Jermaine Rowe at the Kennedy Center American Theatre Festival (KCACTF) explored a variety of anxiety induced thoughts and emotions through Rowe’s varied arsenal of song, dance, acting, and visual art.
    The half hour performance started late to a very sparse audience who did not know what they were signing up for. Rowe came out on stage and set up all of his set pieces and props by himself and wandered around the stage for a good three minutes. This action left the audience confused as to whether the show had started or not as they recognized him as the performer. Meager applause even erupted as Rowe placed a projector onto the stage, a good chunk of time before the performance began. This sentiment of confused entertainment carried throughout the rest of the show.
    Rowe began the piece by introducing his concept of exploring what happens to a person in an isolated situation and telling the audience to turn off their cell phones so that they wouldn’t be a disruption to his ted talk like speech about the human mind. As soon as this speech was over however Rowe was transported to a cave in which he gave a monologue about the things the mind imagines when one is alone, things that included “a fucking horse dancing around on stage.” This transition rocketed the audience from an informative speech into Rowe’s inner stage fright.
    The rest of the performance consisted of snippets of inner thoughts that anyone would experience before performing in front of a large crowd. Questioning your background, your appearance, and the most random thoughts were showcased by Rowe’s performance. Rowe had amazing stage presence and was immediately accepted by the audience, even those who were confused by the performance. He had such an admirable amount of confidence in his role and his piece, even as he danced around as a half-naked horse.
    Rowe’s piece is reminiscent of many different styles of performance. It was an interesting mix of stand-up comedy, presentation, interpretive dance, song, and acting. This was very well executed by the performer and got the point of the show across beautifully. The most prominent thing that can be taken away from the show is the discussion that arises from it. This piece is up to interpretation as everyone experiences themes of the show differently. There was a focus on Anxiety, what it’s like to be an immigrant, as well as what it’s like to be a black man in current society. The show was a wonderful visualization that encapsulated the audience.
    The technical elements of the piece were breathtaking. Rowe’s use of shadows, projections, video and audio all drew the audience into the action happening on stage. One of the most powerful technical elements was also one of the simplest; the use of shadows. Rowe used the flashlight on the back of his phone to project a larger than life silhouette of himself onto the white screen behind him and it exaggerated all of his movements, big or small, and really worked to add to the mood of the performance. The use of shadows also played a part in Rowe’s projections as he used an old school projector and small paper cut outs that gave a puppet like visual element to his stories. The only technical flaw was that sometimes the sound used overpowered the voice of Rowe even with him having a microphone. This was a small problem that never reduced the overall enjoyment of the show.
    After the show ended Rowe came out and thanked the audience in the lobby and answered any and all questions members had about the piece which speaks to Rowe’s dedication to his craft. While confusing and intense at most points in the show, Solitary: an Exploration of Isolation was a wonderful show that got the audience to engage both literally and mentally to what the performer was trying to get across and is a must see at KCACTF.

  2. “Solitary: An Exploration of Isolation” review-first draft
    By Emily Brown

    Two words to describe this performance are “pandering” and “particular”. For Jermaine Rowe’s 2pm performance of “Solitary: An Exploration of Isolationism” at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, there was no program. The audience walked in with no music playing, and a blank stage. The seating was expanded to be as close to the stage as possible, the first two rows of seats were on a platform over the orchestra pit (which had been open earlier in the week). When music did start playing, and even when the performer came on stage, most of the audience kept talking. Except for an awkward smattering of applause when the actor was first seen moving an overhead projector onto the stage.
    One thing needs to be made perfectly clear: this is a performance piece. It does not tell a story, it is like a more dynamic lecture. The description (from the KCACTF schedule website) is that “[this performance] explores aspects of isolation, with the intention of gaining a deeper understanding of oneself. Devised using projections designs, songs, dance and storytelling, the audience is taken on a journey of identity, physical and mental confinement and explores the feeling of being lost.” Not everyone in the audience understood what was being attempted. Exiting the theater, there were at least a few people who said “I don’t get it.” Without anything to guide the audience, many people felt lost and confused. Perhaps having a program would have helped, but the purpose of the performance was not made clear by the performance itself.
    The performance was pandering because it forced a certain level of audience participation that did not feel organic. There were more than a few references to Broadway’s “Hamilton” and the entire ‘stop the show’ bit was tedious and obvious.
    The ‘stop the show’ bit came in the middle of a skit that was using shadow puppets to tell a very interesting story. However, halfway through, the actor stopped, acted like maybe he had forgotten his lines or become too overwhelmed (it was unclear what he was trying to portray), and announced “I’m sorry” and called to the stage manager things like “for real, bring the lights up!”
    All the lights in the theater came up, and he hopped off the stage, ran to the booth and “yelled” at the stage manager. Then he ran back onstage and yelled something at the audience which was unintelligible, but clearly included the word “f*ck” (some people say it was “you need to wake the f*ck up” whereas others say it was “stay the f*ck to yourself”). This was not entertainment, it’s just felt like it was trying to be edgy and entertaining, but instead fell flat and felt ingenuine.
    With all that being said, the performance did have very artful technical elements to it. The performance looked really nice, especially the projections and shadow play. The whole thing was a series of skits and gimmicks to get the audience’s attention and make the audience think. There was a very clever use of a cell phone flash light as a prop/source of light in the first scene. Rowe walked around using the phone as his only source of light, accompanied by the sound of water dripping and echoing around. This was a really cool monologue, but it was unclear whether the actor was slipping in and out of character voices (several different dialects were used in the bit, but it appeared that it was all the same character) intentionally or mistakenly.
    After the ‘stop the show’ scene, there was a dance piece. This piece was weird and oddly engaging. The audience was confused, but felt something while watching a shirtless man dance around (with very impressive choreography) to an upbeat song in red light and a horse mask.Many audience members found this scene cathartic, but could not say why it made them feel things, or even what those feelings were.
    Overall, this performance was a confusing collection of isolated bits and skits connected loosely by the theme of isolation and solitary. While each skit could be evaluated for its own merits and faults, the overall performance was thematically weak, unclear on its message, and only entertaining if you figured out the gimmick. However, it was a beautiful to look at pierce, and the dialogue that Rowe delivered was very interesting. This performance needed some sort of program to explain itself beforehand, since it gave more of an appearance of performance art than theater.

  3. “Solitary: A Exploration in Isolation”, a grad project written and performed by Jermaine Rowe, was an incredibly charismatic and entertaining piece of interpretive theater. The production was minimalistic, with very few props, but it’s use of projections was extraordinary. Rowe’s use of lighting and shadows were incredibly unique to the piece, and he was able to display many of his artistic talents. Whether he was singing, dancing, or miming, the audience was captivated by his every move. This show presented a strong social commentary on the oppression and exploitation of African Americans. Pieces of the performance included a somber story about Jerome’s character having to make difficult choices surrounding his family as a child, a conversation between himself and his inner conscious, and, an interpretive dance choreographed by Jerome where he resembled the actions and behaviors of a horse. While I found each piece moving, myself, and a good chunk of the audience, struggled to figure out how each of these pieces coincided with the other. While each piece was powerful, I personally couldn’t find the connection. But, the entire point of interpretive theater is to leave you thinking about your interpretation. The show wanted you to try not to make sense of what was happening, but to try and experience what was happening to the fullest. This piece did a wonderful job grabbing the audience’s attention, making them appreciate each of the artforms portrayed in the piece, and leaving them wanting more. Rowe is a man of many talents, and, “Solitary: A Study in Isolation”, was truly one of KCACTF’s “hidden gems” when it came to this year’s performances.

  4. “You can’t always make sense you know”. This idea was one of the last lines in the performance and it stuck with me as the house lights came up. Jermaine Rowe, both the solo-performer and director of, “Solitary – An Exploration of Isolation”, took his final bow snapping me back to reality. The rest of the audience rose for a standing ovation, but I lagged behind the rest. It wasn’t apathy which kept me in my seat; I was completely perplexed, simply unable to wrap my head around the fact that it was over. I, along with much of the audience, had been transfixed by the obscure performance, unable to stop watching.

    “Solitary – An Exploration of Isolation”, closed its two-day run at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 1 on Friday, February 2nd. The performance was slated as an exploration of the mind and isolation within ones-self. Overall, it was an extremely powerful piece. It asked the audience to allow themselves to be held captive by the moment and unafraid if something didn’t make sense. The roughly thirty-minute performance was a combination of dark comedy, movement, song, and storytelling.

    Rowe’s piece began almost like a college seminar, one person speaking to many. He actively engaged with the audience, asking questions and seeking real answers. However, this was an illusion. The real story was in the moments to come when he allowed the audience into his mind. In one of the most impactful moments, Rowe was left in the dark, guided only by the light of his cellphone’s flashlight as it projected his shadow onto the Cyclorama behind him. The sound of water dripping and the paranoid edge to his voice made the audience uneasy as his silhouette was shook, disfigured, and manipulated by his actions. The audience felt lost and nervous with him, feeling his anxiety and wondering what would happen next. This was one of many scenarios shown to us which explored the isolation of the mind or body and made the audience challenge their own preconceived perceptions.

    I very rarely long for talk backs at the end of a performance. I dislike feeling obligated to stay and dread the thought of walking out on a performer even more. “Solitary – An Exploration on Isolation”, was an exception. I wanted to talk about the performance with everyone around me and see how they felt after the piece, but Rowe did not return to the stage and there was no talk back. This left the audience and I to answer our own questions about the performance and its messages. Maybe that is why, hours after exiting the theatre, the show remains in the forefront of my mind.

    By Jermaine Rowe
    KCACTF Region 1 Festival
    February 2, 2018

    By Jennifer Dorn

    “Hello? Is anyone there?”

    On Friday, February 2, Jermaine Rowe presented his original performance art piece “SOLITARY — An Exploration of Isolation” at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 1 Festival. Employing a combination of song, dance, casual narrative, and multimedia galore, Rowe explores the liminal space between physical and experiential isolation. He plays with isolations in sound, movement, light, and image while drawing on this theme in the Western canon, popular culture, and his own experiences — as a product of two countries, as a black man, and, in the piece’s boldest choice, as a performance artist.

    If this sounds like an overabundance of lists, it’s because of an overabundance of material. Mr. Rowe’s performance abruptly leapt from bit to bit to bit to bit to bit to bit, interspersed with provocative but trite one-line queries: “Are you free? Have you ever listened to the silence?”

    Towards the end, he warns, “Don’t try to make sense of it; just be with it. It doesn’t always make sense, you know.”

    Certainly, no one expects contemporary performance art to make sense. And Mr. Rowe is undeniably talented. But when one can barely even recall the experience eight hours later, clearly, something fell flat. Amidst the plurality, the culprit is difficult to pinpoint. But it was altogether too much and not enough.

    Was I there? Honestly, I can hardly remember. It’s easy to forget.

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