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August 21, 2014
Dream Up Festival Review: Summer Blue
Akil Davi in "Summer Blue". Photo by Claire Taddei.
Akil Davi in "Summer Blue". Photo by Claire Taddei.

Summer Blue, a part of the 2014 Dream Up Festival, is a combination of theater, dance, and performance art set to a deep blues score. It is also a means to further dialogue about our country's most pressing issue: inequality. Whether you've been a victim of privilege, or are guilty of your own privilege (the answer to both of these is 'yes'), then Summer Blue is your musical reminder to check that at the door.

While the concept of Summer Blue is great, it can be difficult to focus between band, song, and performance.  The most symbiotic performance of the night to include all three was host Kristin Gilmore's cover of the famously reworked Rolls Royce classic "I'm Going Down", which was accompanied by a stellar modern movement piece between Joshua Oates and Sara Zepezaur. A spoken word sketch between Elora Wildes and Equiano Mosieri struck a chord with their race based dialogue, but the actors commitment to character and concept amid audience reaction is true testament of talent. Their stage chemistry was compounded in the last scene, which was another role reversal piece. Whereas the first interaction was based in race, and modern prejudices, the latter focused on gender and history, as the two performed a gender reversed dialogue from one of Shakespeare's best, The Taming of the Shrew.

Dana Abrassart in "Summer Blue". Photo by Claire Taddei.
Dana Abrassart in "Summer Blue". Photo by Claire Taddei.

Another highlight included Alexandra Peter's rope choreography as she used audience participation for her song and story of the evolution of blues, jazz, and rock and roll. And Elena "Meta" Jaroff danced with fervent emotion during a piece about woman's sexuality, which eventually segued into a hilarious (if controversial) group aside about gender misconceptions, including a fab one-liner from illusionist Josh Oates' about men's obsession with women's heels.  Aerialist Dana Abrassart's use of lighting, chains, and her sensual acrobatic movements told the Legend of Robert Johnson and the "Devil" guitar, with exceptional clarity.

Director Akil Davis has displayed innovative creativity while playing to his cast's strengths.  Yet while the majority of performances were a joy to take in, the overall production had enough execution issues to warrant a raised brow. Host Kristin Gilmore's silky, yet booming voice was almost inaudible, as were many of the ensemble accompanied vocal performances.  And it is worth noting that the simultaneous inclusion of three different artistic mediums added a lot of noise to the show, both visually and audibly. For example, during Zepezaur's solo piece, I distinctly remember the band covering Lenny Kravitz's "Voodoo Child", and I vaguely remember Elliot LaRue's raspy, yet soulful vocals crooning it out; but Zepezaur's performance in the large hoops completely overshadowed both.

All in all, Summer Blue does a great job as a collective, collaborative effort of artists; the pitfalls were few and far in between, and there's no doubt this cast can't bounce back.

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Written by: A. Mia Logan
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