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Streamers… Alternative Theater

BY Kim Waldner

Issues of racial tension, homophobia and the Vietnam War will be raised at UCSC from Oct. 21-24 with the controversial play called Streamers, a joint production by the African-American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT) and Stevenson Theater Guild. The David Rabe play features an all-male cast of student actors and is directed by Don William’s, who is the founder of AATAT, a TheaterArts department lecturer, and Stevenson College preceptor.

Streamers is a powerful military drama set in an army barrack in 1965, the beginning of the Vietnam War, throwing together 10 men of different cultures conditioned by society to hate and fear each other. The choice of Streamers was a difficult one for William’s and student Theater Guild producer Sol Lipman for several reasons. There are only 10 roles, none for women, graphic language and controversial themes. The flyer announcing the play runs the warning: "This production should only be view by audiences of an adult nature."

Director William’s says the "shocking" and "disruptive" qualities of streamers are part of its appeal. "The writer doesn’t pull any punches. His writing cuts across the heart of various issue and at the same time shows a genuine, clear, positive relationship between blacks and whites."

William’s class the plays an "actor’s showcase", meaning that sets and props are de-emphasized to intensify the confrontational dialogue between characters. Though set almost thirty years ago, Streamers is a hotbed of contemporary issues, including racism, gays in the military, and the Black male experience in America. "Streamers has a realness in it for today’s times. There is still great tension among the races that breeds from back home," William’s says. Since its creation by William’s, the AATAT has brought to UCSC a diversity of plays providing roles for Black actors that some believe the Theater Arts Board has neglected. When William’s came to UCSC six ears ago, after years of directing Black theater troupes in Michigan and at the University of Southern California, he found a definite lack of productions by and about African Americans. "I saw an opportunity to press forward," William’s says. "I didn’t see any doors open, and it took time to open those doors."

It has been an eye-opening experience for many of the students involved. Eric Johnson plays Carlyle, a bisexual Watts ghetto survivor. Jackson, a senior chemistry major who has also been in other AATAT productions, says rehearsing for Streamers with the multi-race, all-male cast has been a "male-bonding" experience. "I’ve met people I wouldn’t [have] usually," he says.

Jackson says he believes the importance of the African American Theater Arts Troupe lies in its mission of providing the community with a more diverse range of plays than is usually offered.

AATAT’s Ceremonies of dark Old Men, he pints out, was the first play to star an all-Black cat at UCSC.

James Kruk, a Theater Arts Major who plays Sergeant Cokes, says he also noticed the Theater Arts Board lacks diverse offerings. Kruk says that of the eight productions he has been in at UCSC, this is the first play where he will perform with African American males in the cast. That are opportunity, says Kruk, is "one of the main reasons" he auditioned. Producer Lipman also distinguishes the all-student run Stevenson Theater Guild as independent of the Theater Arts Board. "A lot of what we’re about is taking away the pressure of having to go through the Board to put on a play," says Lipman. The cooperation between a diverse group of people has been a fulfilling experience for everyone involved. Lipman says, "We’ve built a real community of people here."

Streamers is paying at the Stevenson Dining Hall Oct. 21, 22, 23 and 24 at 8p.m. Admission is $3 at the door. For information on discounts, call 426-3430.

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