“You can learn so much about people by sharing their possessions,” says Corey, the fourth-grade teacher at Ground Zero in Anthony Clarvoe’s haunting ripped-from-the-headlines drama Show and Tell, which debuted at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in 1992. “We share [those possessions during ‘Show and Tell’],” Corey adds, “and it’s like sharing the people we care about. We show that we care by learning. That’s what we do in Show and Tell.”
In the aftermath of 9/11 last year and the school shootings at Columbine on April 20, 1999, Raleigh Ensemble Players’ timely presentation of Show and Tell fearlessly explores a heretofore unimaginable crime: a bomb set off in an elementary-school classroom — and its horrendous aftermath.
“Show and Tell details the aftermath of an unthinkable event,” explains REP artistic director C. Glen Matthews. “Corey (Sarah Kocz), a young and enthusiastic elementary teacher, leaves her classroom one morning to retrieve the autoharp she left in the teacher’s lounge. As she is returning to her classroom, it explodes. Her 24 students are killed; Corey survives.
“Then,” Matthews adds, “a team of government forensics experts (David Harrell, Georgia Martin, Nanci Burrows, and Jennifer Hirsch), charged with the task of determining the cause of the blast and identifying the victims, descends upon the small community. Ultimately, it is the outsiders’ interaction with Corey and the grieving family members (played by Brian Robinson, Martin, Burrows, and Hirsch) that forces both the audience and characters to reexamine what it means to be a survivor and how one might react to such an event.”
Matthews says, “As a schoolteacher myself, I am haunted by the possibility of something like this occurring. I’m also fascinated by the play’s major question: Why do we survive and others perish? More importantly, how do we survive? Each character struggles with these questions as they pick up the pieces of their shattered world. It’s a struggle that is universal and, for us as Americans living in the wake of 9/11, extremely immediate.”
Show and Tell challenges Matthews and his creative team of production designer Miyuki Su, lighting designer Thomas Mauney, and assistant director and sound designer Heather Willcox to do their best work.
“Much of the action, with the exception of the final scene, takes place in the mind of Corey,” notes Glen Matthews. “It is as if the film of her life is zipping before her (and our) eyes and she chooses to latch onto it at certain points. Most of these points are set in and around her small classroom... a classroom that has exploded or will explode very shortly, depending upon the memory we’re viewing.
“The space as a whole is an emotional minefield,” Matthews says, “charged with matter, energy, and great emotion. The characters navigate this space, discovering and encountering numerous objects as they work to piece together and sort through the events.”
Matthews adds, “As we navigate Corey’s memories, there is an absence of color in the clothing; however, the closer we get to the present, to real time, we find bits of color rising to the surface.”
Glen Matthews says, “Both lights and sound work to move us through the action, serving as transition tool from one memory to the next. Lights also aid in defining specific locales through the use of color. The room housing the investigators has a cool, sterile feel to it, while the holding room for the parents possesses a growing warmth — the air is on the verge of boiling.”
Raleigh Ensemble Players presents Show and Tell Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 17-19, at 8 p.m.; and Wednesday-Saturday, Oct. 23-26, at 8 p.m. in Gallery II of Artspace, 201 East Davie St., Raleigh. (NOTE: There will be an audio-described (by Arts Access) and sign-language-interpreted performance, with a “touch tour” provided at 7:20 p.m.) $15 ($10 students with ID and $12 seniors 60+/military personnel). 919/832-9607. http://www.realtheatre.org/.