At the beginning of We Are the Source, three white-clad dancers lie sleeping on a stage surrounded by a white fence that ripples around the entire auditorium. Its a stunning image.
Credit freelance set designer Jeffery Eisenmann for the concept that suggests both a fence defining a landscape and graceful organ pipes, possibly whispering the music of the land. Its an effective illusion because the fence is made of white PVC pipes lashed together with rope and fronting floor-to-ceiling plastic sheeting. Onto this rich backdrop images are projected throughout the show from rocks to new campus buildings.
The 14-member ensemble acquits itself well with plenty of energy and a few outstanding monologues. The intention is to tell a 100-year saga in a multimedia extravaganza in one hour.
The student performers assemble, dance, speak and disperse, blending one era into another. Singular voices come forward to tell individual stories; a narrator delivers historical facts.
The closing sequence is a public relations dream; the actor-dancers run on stage in modern Fort Lewis College T-shirts and jeans. They romp and dance as individuals restate We Are the Source, then present short alumni success stories.
The finale serves to underline the meaning of the title. At every college, the students (and lets not forget the faculty) are the source of energy, inspiration and hope for the future. I agree. But the students of FLC deserve a centennial celebration that is better than this well-intentioned, energetically presented but busy, random and unfocussed work.
Legend has it that a year ago, FLC administrators asked the theater department to mount a dramatic offering to celebrate the schools centennial. We are the Source, written by Fred Wildfang and adapted and directed by Kathryn Moller is the result.
The program describes the work as a performance exploration of the journey of Fort Lewis College from its inception to the present.
And thats what it is, a performance exploration. It isnt a play. It isnt a musical. It isnt a revue, although with a top-hat tap dance number oddly emerging out of the Indian School era, one wonders who suggested a fragment from Theatre of the Absurd to appear amid this saga.
Source could also be described as essentially a dance performance exploring the history of popular styles. Youll see the Charleston during the 20s, a brief waltz, the jitterbug for World War II and the Twist, the Swim and other oddities from eras closer to our own.
We are the Source also includes straight historical narration recorded by Bruce Mayer. It covers the history of the region, Durango and the college. There are snippets of student monologues that tend to focus on how strange and scary it is to enroll in college, to find ones place and discover ones identity.
The theme is really about student struggles, Wildfang said in an interview before Wednesday nights dress rehearsal. I wrote the entire script, but there are what I call interludes with student voices.
Wildfang said he was approached last January to write a script for a centennial piece.
I used the history of the college to hang some of the issues I care about the most, Wildfang said.
Human rights, cultural clashes, war and peace, and the environment. I managed to work most of my issues into the script, but student struggle is really the heart of the production.
Moller sent out a call for student and alumni stories. When she adapted Wildfangs script for a finished performance, she integrated at least 13 alumni submissions into the fabric of the piece.
We juxtaposed this wealth of creative expression, Moller writes in the program, with photographs, historical quotes, clothing, music and dance from the past, which we interpreted as potsherd-like historical artifacts, informing our understanding of this time and place.
The work is, indeed, a collaboration. To say that it is ambitious is an understatement. The program lists five different teams from conception to performance. The artistic team consists of 11 people, and the finished product definitely suggests that We Are the Source was created by a committee.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.