'Brooklyn Bridge' an atmosphere of experimentation

Theater poster

Ten-year-old Sasha is poised to write an essay. The only thing missing? A pen.

In Melissa James Gibson’s “Brooklyn Bridge,” the latest show in the ASU School of Film, Dance and TheatreThe School of Film, Dance and Theatre is part of ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.’s MainStage season, Sasha’s quest for a small writing utensil turns into something much bigger.

“This is an enormous show,” said Ricky Araiza, a graduate student in directing and theater for youth, who is helming this production. “It’s going to be a visual spectacle, and it’s hilarious — delightfully clever and witty.”

To set the stage, Araiza has been working with ASU alum and set designer Brunella Provvidente to create an interactive backdrop for the story.

“The initial design concept for set was that I wanted it to feel like a project,” Araiza said. “We will have essentially the feel of a diorama on stage of this world created by Sasha and the people who inhabit this building. You’ll essentially get to see the set talk back to the actors — it moves, it’s alive.”

For the actors in this production, Araiza’s approach has created an atmosphere of experimentation.

“My favorite part of working on the production is that I get to play again,” said Andre Johnson, an undergraduate theater exploratory student who plays Sam. “I guess sometimes you kind of feel a little bit dull when it comes to theater, you kind of forget what it’s all about or why you’re doing it. And then you come into a play like this where it’s aimed towards children and it’s about education, and it’s so much fun.”

Though “Brooklyn Bridge” is a Theatre for Youth production, Araiza explains that the appeal of the show is not at all limited to children alone.

“I think the themes are universal,” Araiza said. “It’s this want for us to connect with each other; there’s the fear of the unknown and how we choose to handle that; this story touches a lot on immigrant issues right now.”

Olga Bezpaltchikova is an undergraduate theater student playing the title role of Sasha. Like her character in the show, Bezpaltchikova is the daughter of Russian immigrants.

“The more I work on it and the more we rehearse, the more I discover scary similarities [between us],” Bezpaltchikova said. “We are both first-generation Americans. Our parents moved here from the Soviet Union. My parents work pretty hard and definitely had to struggle to make their way in this country.”

In the play, Sasha’s own struggle for a pen is a metaphor for a more adult struggle to find a sense of belonging. Two musicians in the show, played by undergraduate theater students Emily Adams and Audrey Pfeifer, manifest Sasha’s challenges through song.

Though the musicians are technically characters in the script, Adams and Pfeifer really did work together to compose an original piece for ASU's production of the show.

”As Sasha is searching for a pen, we are coming up with the ending song, which is actually a song that we wrote together,” said Pfeifer. “So throughout the show, you’ll hear us trying out the song, getting frustrated, rewriting some things. And it kind of works as background for what Sasha is going through.”

“As Sasha begins to come out of her shell and develop throughout the play, so does the song,” Adams said. “While we’re both characters in the play, we both almost act like these narrators for Sasha’s life, a little bit all-knowing.”

“It does truly take a village to raise a child, and we really do get to see that village coming together in this show,” Araiza said. “When that happens, it’s a really touching moment. All the elements in the show — set, costume, media, music — everything coming together at once is really touching to see and hear and experience.”

“Brooklyn Bridge” is playing at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, 51 E. 10th St., on ASU’s Tempe campus on these dates:

7:30 p.m. Nov. 13-14
2 p.m. Nov. 15
7:30 p.m. Nov. 19-21
2 p.m. Nov. 22

Tickets are $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 for senior citizens; and $8 for students. Purchase tickets online or call 480.965.6447.

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