Some Favorite Sites
Government/ Community Links
“How to Break” Hits
by Allan Appel | Oct 3, 2013 11:28 am
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Theater
The popper has leukemia. The b-boy, sickle cell disease. The nurse with headphones speaks only beat-boxingese. Is it any wonder the pediatric hematologist is having a hard time communicating?
Welcome to the medically dystopic but wildly rhythmic world of “How to Break,” local playwright and actor Aaron Jafferis’ new hip-hop play about what it means for young people to struggle with serious illness.
To be “ill” in hip-hop culture means that you’re awesome. So while you’re sick, maybe even terminal, you’re also out of this world, as it were.
Jafferis’ new five-person play explores poignant issues of illness and health. It opens Thursday night on the main stage at Educational Center for the Arts (ECA) at the corner of Audubon and Orange.
The break-dancing, beat-boxing, rapping ensemble-piece headlines a week-long Arts for Healing Festival produced by Dexter Singleton and his Collective Consciousness Theater, with Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. It includes musical, visual, and theater works performed by staff and patients from the hospital, where Jafferis, in his day job, has taught poetry for 10 years.
“I’ve been showcasing patients’ work for years,” said Jafferis (pictured). He said art therapy, “reduces isolation and connects these young people to their peers.”
Jafferis’ wrenching tale of teens—Ana with leukemia and Joel with sickle cell disease— living with chronic disease debuted in New York last year at the 2012 Hip-Hip Theater festival. It won awards, along with mixed reviews of the Romeo-Juliet traditional relationship between the teens.
Jafferis said he did a major rewrite for the New Haven premiere, turning some elements into dream sequences. He said the play’s more naturalistic scenes couldn’t co-exist with the rapping, break-dancing, and rapid-fire beat-boxing.
It “paradoxically didn’t work,” Jafferis said. It didn’t convey how artistic work with sick kids affects their happiness and health.
“The play needed to reflect the mind-twisting of illness,” Jafferis said. That explains the shift to more sequences of what director Christopher Edwards calls surrealism.
Also new for the New Haven debut: The playwright steps into the role of actor, playing the fumbling doctor he created. Edwards said Jafferis, who went to ECA and now also teaches there, wanted to be on stage for the debut in his hometown.
Jafferis was last on stage in 2001, playing a small part in an ensemble production of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Long Wharf Theatre.
Jafferis is known as a perfectionist among his colleagues, and as a mad re-writer. That he is on stage now is giving some relief to his director and company. Jafferis said he can’t have his “critical hat on” when he’s acting.
Then he donned his doctor’s white robe and went out to join his cast.
The cast includes, in addition to those mentioned, the show’s composer Rebecca Hart, also a New Haven native; beat-boxing nurse Yako 440, who bussed into ECA as a Guilford teen; and Jason Facey.
Yako 440 and Adam Matta also made musical contributions, and the choreography is by Kwikstep and Rokafella.
The show’s four performances run Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets and more info on the show and the Arts of Healing Festival, go to Collective Consciousness’s site.
Tags: aaron jafferis, ECA
Post a Comment
There were no comments