Emerging Artists Celebration engages, provokes understanding

Director+Lindsey+C.+Samples+offers+How+to+Have+Fun+in+a+Civil+War+as+part+of+the+Guthries+Solo+Emerging+Artist+Celebration.+The+event+runs+through+Mar.+11

Fair Use Image: Guthrie Theater website

Director Lindsey C. Samples offers “How to Have Fun in a Civil War” as part of the Guthrie’s Solo Emerging Artist Celebration. The event runs through Mar. 11

The Solo Emerging Artist Celebration at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis features three artists, each performing separately: A.P. Looze, Antonio Duke, and Ifrah Mansour. This celebration’s run will last from Feb. 24-Mar. 11. Ifrah Mansour’s How to Have Fun in a Civil War, directed by Lindsey C. Samples, and stage managed by Joelle Coutu, chronicles the beginning of her and her family’s harrowing journey out of Somalia during its civil war in 1991.

This engaging and thought-provoking one-woman show, played by Mansour, tells the story of her own experience travelling through war torn Somalia to “fancy auntie’s house.” Mansour, a performer, teacher, and multimedia artist whose work includes poetry, community collaborations, plays, puppetry, and installations, has shown her work at the Minnesota State Fair, the Northern Spark Festival, and in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ “I am Somali” exhibition.

This production involves the use of video footage projected on a scrim behind the stage, sounds of doors slamming, car horns, people speaking, and gunshots to set the scene, a large puppet portraying her mother, Mansour’s animated portrayal of her child self, and recordings of people describing their own experiences during Somalia’s civil war. The lighting, designed by Mitchell Fraizer, and sound and projections, designed by Peter Morrow added new dimension to Mansour’s acting and use of puppetry. The mood of the performance was reflected in changes in image and lighting color projected on the scrim, and the recordings of people talking about their experiences, complete with pauses and stutters, felt honest and unedited, which showed the humanity that was affected by Somalia’s civil war.

The performance itself was by turns amusing and sobering, as Mansour addressed the difficult topic of leaving her home and traveling through a war zone through the eyes of her child self, using limited props, including a large humanoid form draped with fabric to portray her mother. The story was told simultaneously from her point of view and that of many others through recordings of interviews played in the background during parts of her performance. This also served to juxtapose the understanding and perspective given by age with the innocence of youth.

Tthe shows take place in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie, where ticket prices for all three performance options for the Solo Emerging Artist Celebration are extremely low, at only $9 per ticket.”

In terms of logistics, the shows take place in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie, where ticket prices for all three performance options for the Solo Emerging Artist Celebration are extremely low, at only $9 per ticket because of an effort by the Guthrie in partnership with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to make shows at Dowling available to a wider audience. Each show’s runtime is from 50 minutes to one hour with no intermission. Because it is located on the ninth floor, the Dowling Studio was a bit difficult to find, involving rides in two separate elevators. Asking for directions at the box office may save time.

At a 7 p.m. performance of Ifrah Mansour’s How to Have Fun in a Civil War, Dowling Studio, which appeared to sit around 250 people, looked to be at about 95 – 100 % capacity. By casual observation, the demographic of the audience included mostly thirtysomethings, a few children, and a few older people. There is a drink stand right outside of the Dowling Studio, and drinks were allowed inside. Seating consisted of fairly comfortable chairs on bleachers. Many seats were open at around 6:50 p.m., but filled up quickly thereafter. A post-show discussion with the performer is open to the public.