General 3-17-2004

Theater Review: PROM, No Turning Back

A play by young people--"Prom" performed by the Youth Company of the Children's Theater at Franklin Art Works--is reviewed here by James Widder, a student at the Perpich Center for Arts Education. This is part of our Youth Art Month focus.

On a cold rainy Saturday night, along 11th Street and East Franklin Ave, I walked under a colorful stained glass heading, reading “NEW FRANKLIN.” Through the stained glass heading, I entered a pastel room with stylized portraits by Clea Felien, decorating the cool walls. Franklin Art Works, at 1021 East Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, is an old movie theater with a gallery presenting art shows. I went to Franklin Art Works to see PROM, No Turning Back, a new play by the student company of the Children’s Theater.

Inside the theater, the set was a dark room with a long skinny football field with seating on either side. At the end of the field stood a large purple hollow pyramid, holding a dazzling ring of lights over a miniature wrestling mat. Along the sides of the sporty stage floated enormous white balloons. I thought to myself, is this a setting for prom? It seemed a bit surreal.

The crowd settled as a calming voice filled the air with the thoughts of high school drama, of preparing for prom. “Prom, no turning back,” is a comical critique of the powerful event commonly known as Prom, a social test that many believe high-schoolers live for or suffer through. The Franklin High School prom was fantastically represented by a football game, with all the complicated and dramatic stages that prom goes through. All the clichéd elements were there – the principal, the chaperones, the awkward interactions between the girls and the boys.

The characters used exaggerated movements and actions to portray their individual characteristics and position in the drama. In one of my favorite scenes, the calming narrative voice said “Fast Dance Number One.” Redundant techno music filled the air as the students rushed on to the wrestling mat and began dancing. Closely observing the students’ every awkward and flailing movement, the referee finally threw a yellow flag and froze the scene with a blow of his whistle. Using a booming, intense voice, the referee pushed aside the frozen students to isolate the offending dancer and call the foul (too much pelvic thrust). Two chaperoning teachers guided a projector onto the field, projecting the process of the foul up on the wall and asking the offending student what he was thinking, what this meant to the game, as a typical sports announcer would. The punishment for the foul was 10 seconds of uncomfortable public scrutiny.

The show was a very exciting and entertaining visual presentation by the students of the Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis. The similarities of a high school prom and an intense American tradition like football and other over-hyped American sports were brilliantly developed. Definitely suitable for all age groups, the show uses the prom as a vehicle for the students to look into the future to see what they will become; the chaperones and teachers get a glimpse into the past, a chance to relive their prom fantasies. The show will give you a wonderful and hilarious view of prom that you won’t soon forget. Additional show times: Saturday March 13 at 8:00 pm, Saturday March 20 at 8:30 pm and Sunday March 21 at 5:00 pm.