Concept Lost at Sea

By Kelsey Blackwell

Morehead State University’s Amelia Earhart (performed at KCACTF Region 4, 2015) had a smooth enough takeoff. The first impression we get is whimsical white drapery. Two silks hang from the battens. The set is simple – it consists of wooden crates on top of a round table. Actors clad in airy white garments sway around the stage, interpreting clouds of the sky. They are confident and comfortable. The very opening of the show prepares the audience for interpretive theatre with imaginative blocking.

And then something happens…

Three more actors enter the stage wearing what looks like low-budget cosplay costumes made out of black pleather. There is a sense that costume designer Sara Shouse is going for a steam-punk feel, even though most of the story takes place after the industrial revolution or in the present time. The Reporter looks like a newspaper pirate – he has a newspaper across his chest. There is never a proper explanation as to why the costumes look like this.

It may have been the awkwardness of a new space or the recurring lighting mishaps, but the actor’s heads were in the clouds. Quirky moments made the audience chuckle here and there. The comedy was somewhat well received. However, genuine moments were lost due to a lack of real connections between the characters. Romance and humor were forced rather than felt. Actors who played Amelia Earhart and George Putnam (husband and wife) had all of the sexual chemistry of a boy with his grandmother. The confusion was further enforced by the lack of clarity between characters. The audience couldn’t tell when actors switched from playing characters to narrators.

Around the middle of the show, the audience started to run out of gas. During every awkward pause of the show one could hear a symphony fidgeting and adjusting from the audience. Some even struggled to stay awake. Although the acting and design choices were disappointing, the show was saved by the landing. The most genuine moments happened in the final minutes of the production. Amelia Earhart managed to touch the audience. The show interpreted Earhart fondly – her life, her bravery, and her tragic end – but the overall turbulence of the show unfortunately did not make the whole thing worth it.