Marion Kleinau Theater patrons can see the spell and ride the halo this weekend.
“I Put a Spell on You,” written, directed and performed by Charlie Hope Dorsey and co-directed by Sheng-Tao Fan, hits the stage Thursday, as well as “Rollercoaster Halos,” compiled and performed by Kyle Cheesewright and directed by Nichole Nicholson.
Cheesewright, a doctoral student in speech communication from Durango, Colo., said “Halos” explores the point where race and sexuality intersect. Cheesewright compiled author James Baldwin’s work, he said, and the show does not follow a traditional plot-driven narrative.
“It’s more an episodic kind of narrative,” He said. “Moments are made clear and then implicate and resonate with other moments as the show goes on.”
Nicholson, a doctoral student in speech communication from Ottawa, said the show deals with what it meant to be an LGBT youth during Baldwin’s time. One show sequence concerns the George Washington Bridge, where college student Tyler Clementi committed suicide. Clementi was a queer youth whose roommate videotaped him kissing his boyfriend.
Nicholson said the show is a powerful argument for why people should be aware of American violence. Baldwin shares stories about what it means to be queer in America, Nicholson said.
“There’s a moment in the show in which (Baldwin) tells a story about a man with whom he may have been in love,” Nicholson said. “The story is extraordinarily touching, and I think it speaks to the tragedy of the suicides of LGBT youth in this country.”
Nicholson said the show’s title references poet Buddy Wakefield, who described “folks with halos shaped like roller coasters you would stand in line to ride twice.” The roller coaster represents the constant cause and effect of our culture’s violence, she said.
Wakefield addresses both people who commit violence and the people who choose to fight violence, Nicholson said.
Cheesewright said he hopes audiences will consider politics and social justice during the show.
“(Audiences) should bring their life experiences and be willing to listen to some different life experiences,” Cheesewright said.
Audience members are advised that “Rollercoaster Halos” contains mature themes.
Dorsey, a doctoral student in performance studies from Carbondale, said she loves storytelling, and “I Put a Spell on You” gives her a chance to tell her own story. Dorsey mixes life stories with American history stories, particularly lynching.
Dorsey intersperses poetry throughout the show, she said, and she links these stories with present-day events such as the Trayvon Martin case. Martin, a black teenager, was allegedly shot and killed in February by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Florida.
According to the Kleinau’s website, the show’s title references Nina Simone, a songwriter who recorded the album “The High Priestess of Soul.” Simone covered “I Put a Spell on You,” a song originally performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Dorsey said she hoped the audience would be open to listen, watch and hear the show’s intense message.
Fan, a doctoral student in performance studies from Taiwan, said he thinks Dorsey’s performance is strong.
“I feel the courage and sincerity that the performer will bring the audience to go through the journey of her reconciliation and forgiveness,” Fan said.
Performances begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. General admission is $7, while student tickets are $5 with a valid student ID.