By Alexi Siegel
If you have ever wanted a historical overview of the life Amelia Earhart, save yourself a trip to see Morehead State University’s production of Amelia Earhart, and instead click on her Wikipedia page. The show quickly spanned the life of America’s favorite female pilot, while completely avoiding any dramatic conflict necessary for staged production. Worse yet, the story turned an iconic feminist in American history, into a pawn orchestrated around by the men in the show. While the production tried to elevate the disappointing script with strong technical choices and beautiful stage pictures, ultimately the story came out as shrouded in confusion as Amelia’s death.
The show opened with three dancers all in flowing white outfits running across the stage with ribbons. Slowly, the lead characters appeared onstage in costumes that can only be described as a cross between a Spanish explorer and medieval knight. The contrast in costumes highlighted the conflict in cohesion and story telling that was to be an issue for the rest of the show. However, the bizarre opening nearly worked in favor of the production and created a world in which anything was possible from then on.
Along with the dancers whose purpose was somewhat unclear in this production, the other characters were Amelia, her husband George Putnam, and an ambiguous Reporter. These three actors played multiple different characters throughout the play as needed. While I applaud the attempt at playing so many characters in so little of a time frame, it ultimately caused a lot of confusion and distracted from the developing character arch of the primary leads. As soon as an honest acting moment started to occur, the play quickly switched to a new scene, leaving the audience with whiplash.
While the script itself can only be described as a historical documentation of events, the production design elements took full creative license and were almost enough to overshadow the lack of storytelling.
What appeared to be a simple set of a wooden circle with a few blocks on top transformed before our eyes into a turntable with an airplane atop of it. The feeling of flight was simulated in an inventive fashion by rotating the turntable and manipulating the ribbons. While this image was striking at first, it quickly became overused unfortunately and the thrill of the flight lost. The beautiful terror of her last flight was saved by the addition of lights on her dashboard, which flashes of could be seen as the airplane whirled around.
By the end of the show, the play had still yet to answer the question it posed at the start; exactly who was Amelia Earhart. Was this even her story to begin with? The men seem to dominate the narration with Amelia barely getting a word in edge wise. She became a symbol in the show rather than a person, which was especially clear in the final moment when she struck a pose and the men draped a pure white scarf around her.