Amelia Earhart Crashes and Burns… Again

By Sally Henry

What do flowing white garments and a wooden turntable have in common? Amelia Earhart, apparently. As the first play at KCACTF Region IV 2015, Kathryn Schultz Miller’s Amelia Earhart, presented by Morehead State University, demonstrated very little interpretation of the character of the subject herself.

Of course since we all recognize the title character as the successful aviatrix who became a famous American icon, the question on the audience’s mind was presumably not what the story might be or how it would end, but rather what part of the story might be told. As it turned out, however, it would have been better to inquire as to why the show was done in the first place.

While the set- comprised of a single turntable with cabinets folding out to resemble wings on an airplane- promised an expressionistic portrayal of flying, the costumes for the three main characters almost resembled medieval armor. And then, they threw in some dancers (though a more appropriate term might be “runners”) for good measure, because what expressionistic, bare bones set is complete without angel-like runners? Said runners spent most of their onstage time running laps around the rotating platform with white silks in hand, facially conveying that their chief concern was to avoid a collision.

Having gotten past the runners, the actual storytelling did not offer much more logic or cohesion. It jumped in and out of Earhart’s life and periodically just focused on a general commentary of the given time period. Had all the characters not been narrating, such a device might have been helpful. However, it was unclear at first whether these moments were supposed to be the characters’ view of the time period, or if it was just narration for reference.

Kaitlyn Jones brought out a feisty side of Amelia Earhart, which might have endeared herself to the audience, had she had more speaking opportunities. Andrew Nunley, who played her husband George Putnam, addressed his wife (and narrated the show) with a condescending air, which made their relationship puzzling and lack of chemistry reasonable. Serving as the main narrator, Blaine Roberts, “The Reporter,” delivered each line of narration as if it were the Gettysburg Address, saving no pomp for the more significant moments of the show.

As for flying sequences, Earhart’s most prominent scenes actually featured her crashing planes or otherwise making a detrimental mistake, rather than commanding a plane with skill to match her popularity. This representation thus raised the question, “Why is this chick who can’t really fly planes so famous?” According to Schultz Miller… Who knows?

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