Thursday, February 28, 2008

'Play Buffet' opens March 7

A smorgasbord of stories is ready to be served as Voices of the Marianas stages "The Play Buffet" at the American Memorial Park theater at 7 p.m. beginning on March 7th.

Voices of the Marianas director Barbara Sher has confirmed with IL Magazine that they're all set to go.

Sher said, "We're all set to go."

Piecing together stories submitted by people on island from diverse ethnic backgrounds, Sher said, "It's a delightful experience but it can be frustrating too because it takes a while to get people to commit."

Sher said after the success of their production of "In Transit" last year, they began gathering materials again that took them six months to complete.

In their latest production titled "Play Buffet," Sher approximates the play to be two hours long, and consists of 10 acts to be performed by 15 people.

"The Play Buffet" cast includes veteran actors Nahal Navidar, Richard Hamilton, and Kiara Fudge, who Sher said, "are actors to their soul."

These experienced actors will be joined by five high school students from Marianas High School and some new recruits.

With the success of their play last year, Sher concluded that the islanders are hungry for original theater stuff.

Reminiscing on the success of "In Transit," Sher said, "When we wrote it, we thought, if everybody brings 13 friends, and charge $5 per head, and we will be able to pay for the rent of the theater."

Though modestly produced, "In Transit" received good reviews from viewers. Sher said, "We were just so surprised that word got out that it was such a good production."

As the Voices of the Marianas is a non-profit organization, Sher said they are content to just charge a "friendly" $5 per person in the hopes of just raising the money to pay for rent of the theater.

"It is not about making money, this is about paying the rent. We want to do it every year- that is our goal. And hopefully we can inspire more people," Sher said.

So, this year, she wanted to continue what they started.

For those joining the play, Sher told them, "Whatever you want to write, write. My job is to put these things together."

And put all these things together in a seamless fashion in a play where the audience will be like eavesdropping on them is what Sher did.

"I tried to make the play like people are eavesdropping on you. So it had that kind of feel that they're listening and it is okay," said Sher.

The whole idea, Sher said, "is everybody's voice can be heard."

The entire play is about people telling their own stories. Sher explains, "In people telling their stories, they don't have to be that experienced. They just have to be real."

She also said that in directing her actors, "I give them suggestions on their ways they can say their piece-variation in their tone and their movements. Mainly if they're coming from their hearts, they just have to stand there."

Just a week prior to opening night, Sher said she is satisfied with the materials submitted this year.

Besides, she said, "It will be what it will be," comparing her production to making bread, "like shaping a raggedy dough."

Sher, a veteran theater actress, came to Saipan in 1989 and produced a play titled "American Quilt" that put together a multiracial ensemble.

She said everyone in the cast got to write down his own part and the play drew in the crowds. "It was really successful."

Years later, when she returned to Saipan, there were some people who remembered it, she said, and suggested that she produce another one. And she did. She produced "In Transit" last year to another SRO crowd.

In the 20 years that Sher lived in California prior to relocating to Saipan, she was involved in a dance troupe and theater group. (AVZ)

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