Final Draft Reviews: Solitary (optional)

Comment your final draft reviews of Solitary here.

2 Comments on “Final Draft Reviews: Solitary (optional)

    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 conversational narrative, song and dance, sound and video, overhead projector and shadow puppets, and even an iPhone flashlight, Rowe explores the limbo between physical and experiential isolation. He plays with isolations in sound, movement, light, and image while drawing on this theme in the Eastern and Western canons, popular culture, and his own experiences — as a product of two countries, as a performance artist, and as black man.

    If this sounds like an overabundance of lists, it’s because of an overabundance of material. The undeniably talented Mr. Rowe’s performance abruptly leapt from bit to bit to bit to bit to bit to bit with little time for absorption, 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. But one does expect it to affect. To say that I loved or hated it would be so say that it made me feel something. But when I left the room, it was gone as if it had never happened. 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.

  2. “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 so soon. 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 to be 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 me 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.

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