- By gentleguide
- On Fri 27 dec 2019
Earlier this year, TheatreMidwest joined the ranks of area theatre companies with their first show, The Friendly Hour. In January, they start their second season of full productions with a presentation of Brilliant Traces, a comedy/drama that takes place in an isolated Alaskan cabin, where two strangers each discover there are better ways to live than just hiding from the world... and where emotional truths can finally be confronted.
The character of Rosanna (played by Jami Bassman Ahart) stumbles into the remote cabin, after having runaway from her own wedding. It’s now been days, her car has finally broken down, and yet she’s still in her wedding dress, blindly just trying to escape her potential life and future. She meets Henry (played by Jami’s real-life husband Tom Ahart), the loner occupant of the cabin who has escaped his own life for the solitude of the wilderness. After more than a few struggles, the two seem to come to their own understanding, and perhaps their own version of love....
Together in the Wilderness
“I should start by saying that I met my husband in a play,” admits Jami. “It wasn’t until much later that I learned he was moonlighting...or sunlighting with his school district job. He’s a very gifted actor. It’s a joy to work with someone who brings it! He later directed me in a play. He’s also a fantastic director. Again, just magical to do good work with people you can count on to bring their best. So, I knew he was talented and focused.”
“His job got bigger. The good part is that he has such a passion for helping affect change and growth in our district, the bad part is it's been nearly impossible to do theater. Excepting a few small day gig type things, Tom and I haven't been able to share the stage since 2006. We are beyond grateful to Tom Woldt and TheatreMidwest for taking this on and working in a bit of a non-traditional way with us so we can make it work with Tom's responsibilities. As far as approach, I wasn't sure how that was going to go but instantly and completely, it's been trust. If you're in the moment, the fact that we're married is somewhere between irrelevant and icing. We get to ride to rehearsal together and run lines in pajamas and that's really awesome, but on stage he's an actor I trust completely and we just do our own work.”
“Jami creates a safe space to take chances and I absolutely trust her,” says husband Tom. “I have complete faith in her as a person and as an actor. She captures Rosanna so well that it is easy to fall into the world of the play... she makes my work that much easier and I'm motivated to keep up with her amazing work. Additionally, she has been very helpful in reminding me to not shave and I find her... even in her portrayal of Rosanna, very easy on the eyes!”
Director Tom Woldt feels Brilliant Traces fits perfectly into TheatreMidwest’s stated purpose despite its Alaska setting. “Our mission speaks to doing work that is 'pertinent to' the people of the Midwest. Sometimes that will involve pieces are set on the prairie, a farm, a small town and so on, but we take a wider view along the lines of ‘what is interesting and compelling to our audience?’ With that in mind, Midwesterners are very familiar with the notion of being stranded in a cabin-in-the-woods in a blizzard. We can all go to such a cabin in a few minutes' or couple hours' drive. Most of us know someone who has one, goes to one, or has been to one, and everyone in these parts has been in a major blizzard."
"We plains-dwellers also understand the humorous and melancholy reactions of a person who has never been outside the Desert Southwest when they experience their first major winter weather incident. We are attracted to the qualities of isolation that weave through Brilliant Traces. Isolation is an actual thing (cabin, blizzard, car-broken-down) but also a psychological thing, and this play takes a close, hard look at how both of those things affect two particular people who self-describe as having low social skills and few friends.”
Brilliant Traces is written by Cindy Lou Johnson, and Jami is excited because Johnson’s play also checked off another box as far as TheatreMidwest’s desires for stories to present to local audiences. “We read quite a few plays. I think there are a number of them that, while they were a little more of an in-your-face fit into our mission, this one grabbed us all. I think, had Cindy Lou Johnson set this in a hunting shack in southern Iowa, it would essentially be the same play. The play is written by a woman. I believe it has a very strong women’s voice throughout, and I also think it shines a light on a very under represented idea that men may also be breakable.”
Jami notes how this is a universal situation, even in our ever-more connected modern world. “I don't think there's ever been a time or a problem that couldn't be run away from, one way or another. Technology has certainly made it more convenient. I think this is the rub of the human condition. You can't have love without risk. It's a pretty bad risk too. I think it's very easy to identify it watching Henry and Rosanna together but, if we're being honest, I think this is something every person experiences, regularly in their lives.”
Brilliant Traces is hardly a straightforward play, careening at times from pure stage realism to an almost absurdist spirit at times, thanks to the reclusive nature of the characters. But it is ultimately a beautiful character study into the lives of two somewhat broken people and finding a path to healing. Performances for Brilliant Traces start Friday January 3 at the Viking Theatre at Grand View University. The show runs for two weekends, with shows Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees. Tickets are available through the TheatreMidwest website and at the door.