As part of The Glassblock’s sponsored partnership with the New Hazlett Theater, they are presenting a series of editorially-independent previews and reviews of the 2016-2017 Community Supported Art (CSA) Performance Series. Below is a portion of their review of Redemption: Sons by Drs. Tameka Cage Conley and Jason Mendez, a collaborative response from editor Adam Shuck, arts and culture editor David Bernabo, and guest panelists Yona Harvey and Felicia Lane Savage. Read the full article here, and the preview of the performance here.
In the summer of 2015, Dr. Tameka Cage Conley and Dr. Jason Mendez kindled a friendship around a late night campfire deep in Ohio Amish Country. As part of their participation in Penn Avenue Creative, a 12-week initiative from the Kelly Strayhorn Theater aimed at fostering leadership in Pittsburgh’s creative arts community, Conley, who was a workshop facilitator, and Mendez, who was a program fellow, took part in a three-day retreat that ended up changing the course of both of their lives—and which brought them to the New Hazlett Theater, where on December 8th, 2016 they performed their Redemption: Sons to a packed house.
Redemption: Sons, which weaves personal stories from childhood to present, touching on memory, loss, pain, and joy, is strikingly intimate and simultaneously rich and spare. “So everyone’s just gone to bed?” Conley asks Mendez to open the performance, as she pours herself a drink and approaches him as he’s writing fireside, and we feel transported to the strange hush that’s left after the excitement of a crowd of people has dissipated. Crunching leaves barefoot, with a faint whistle of birds in the distance, Redemption: Sons places us in those woods with Conley and Mendez, around that small fire that illuminates a soft space in the larger expanse of darkness. This simple, direct staging communicates an intimacy, signaling to the audience a cue to lean in. Listen.
Throughout their conversation, first a bit stilted and then increasingly warmer as they get to know each other, Conley and Mendez exchange bits of influential writing and details about their personal lives—Conley recites Lucille Clifton’s succinct poem won’t you celebrate with me; Mendez tells of the birth of his son Cairen—and, little by little, Conley and Mendez realize the similarities they share in both.