Drama Book Shop PLAY OF THE WEEK
August 2, 2010
by Naomi Iizuka
"I first picked up Polaroid Stories one afternoon last summer. I was searching for new monologues and remembered, from a production of the play I saw a while ago, that there were a lot of potentially good ones for me in the script. I started reading it. . . . and then I couldn’t stop. I hadn’t meant to spend a sunny summer afternoon curled up on my couch, reading. It just happened. The collage of beautifully written, visceral stories sucked me in completely; and it has since become one of my favorite plays.
"In Polaroid Stories, Naomi Iizuka takes several well-known Greek myths (Orpheus and Eurydice, Ariande in the Labyrinth, and Prometheus, to name a few) and retells them through the eyes of street kids. She cuts between them, first telling a bit of one, and then a bit of another, weaving them together into a beautiful but haunting tapestry that hits you right in the gut. In the writing itself, she mixes poetry and the language of the street to create something spellbinding, scary, haunting, and absolutely beautiful.
"Writing aside, Iizuka also uses sound and light to great effect in this play. She often underscores the scenes with music, breathing, and "the sounds of the street;" or punctuates moments with flashes of light or other specific effects which she stipulates in the script. These complete the story and add to the atmosphere even more.
"And then, (most importantly,) this play offers amazing opportunities for actors. The characters Iizuka creates are tough as nails on the outside—but only to conceal a vulnerability and a need so great that it dwarfs everything else. Every once in a while their exteriors crack, but only for an instant—but it is always there, hidden just beneath the surface. Every one of these characters has something they are pursuing with their whole heart, or someone they are running from, just trying to stay alive. Her adaptation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice I found especially powerful.
"I ended up learning a Eurydice monologue last summer, and it is now one of my go-to pieces when I am asked to for “something else” at auditions. When I did it for my acting coach at the British American Drama Academy he told me, “You have picked a monologue where the world is your oyster. You can do anything with that monologue, and it would probably work.” The thing is, most of the play is like that. What more can an actor ask for?"
Reviewed by Shawn Palmer
by Naomi Iizuka
Dramatic Publishing, 1998
Acting Edition: $8.95
Cast: 5m., 5w. (Gender-flexible casting is permitted.)
A visceral blend of classical mythology and real life stories told by street kids, Naomi lizuka's Polaroid Stories journeys into a dangerous world where myth-making fulfills a fierce need for transcendence, where storytelling has the power to transform a reality in which characters' lives are continually threatened, devalued and effaced. Not all the stories these characters tell are true; some are lies, wild yams, clever deceits, baroque fabrications. But whether or not a homeless kid invents an incredible history for himself isn't the point, explains diarist-of-the-street Jim Grimsley. "All these stories and lies add up to something like the truth."
Inspired in part by Ovid's Metamorphoses, Iizuka's Polaroid Stories takes place on an abandoned pier on the outermost edge of a city, a way stop for dreamers, dealers and desperadoes, a no-man's land where runaways seek camaraderie, refuge and escape. Serpentine routes from the street to the heart characterize the interactions in this spellbinding tale of young people pushed to society's fringe. Informed, as well, by interviews with young prostitutes and street kids, Polaroid Stories conveys a whirlwind of psychic disturbance, confusion and longing. Like their mythic counterparts, these modem-day mortals are engulfed by needs that burn and consume. Their language mixes poetry and profanity, imbuing the play with lyricism and great theatrical force.
Approximate running time: 2 hours.