The month of May finds the Phoenix Theater hosting two multicultural shows on its lower level stage. From the southwest of the past, to the Middle East of today, the Phoenix Theater fulfills its mission of bringing diverse and provocative theater to the city of Indianapolis. The current production of Bless Me, Ultima, will include performances in Spanish, and a visiting performance of On Holy Ground, will bring the spotlight to the Middle East.
Bless Me, Ultima opens on the Phoenix Theater’s Frank & Katrina Basile stage this weekend. Based on the best selling Chicano novel of all time, Bless Me, Ultima transports audiences to post World-War II New Mexico.
The stage adaptation features an author trying to write the story of his childhood. As he starts to recall the past, he realizes that the central figure from his youth is Ultima, a town shaman of sorts who lived with his family for the last year of her life.The story tells of Antonio’s coming of age, of mythology mixing with Catholicism, and the old ways meeting the new ways. The set is understated, letting the actors tell the story. The ensemble acts as a traditional Greek chorus with creative masks. The chorus created intense, dramatic scenes by moving and chanting as a group. They also lightened the mood when they played Antonio’s school friends in overly dramatic and childish ways. Each actor played many parts, but once the cadence of the show was established, it was easy to follow. Lighting, sound effects, and a digital screen all help bring the story to life with precision. After seeing this show, the book by the same name is definitely on my to-read list. Performances on June 7 and 8 will be in Spanish.
On Holy Ground will be presented by Genesis Theatrical Productions on Tuesday May 20 and Wednesday May 21. This will be the Indiana premiere of the show, presented by the cast doing a first run at the National Pastime Theater in Chicago. Written by Writers Guild Award winner, playwright Stephanie Liss, the evening examines stories from the Holy Land that endures, no matter who lives there.
The first act, called Daughter of My People, examines the life of Hadassah founder, Henrietta Szold. The second act, called Jihad, focuses on two mothers, one Israeli and one Pakistani in the modern day Middle East.
Tickets for both shows can be purchased online or by phone, and more information can be found on the theater’s website.