Play's exacting language speaks to changes

'Member' explores coming-of-age, South in 1944
2011-04-15T00:00:00Z 2011-04-18T09:49:29Z Play's exacting language speaks to changesKathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 15, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Daria Berg knows how Frankie Addams feels: an outcast caught in the twilight between childhood and adulthood.

Berg plays the 12-year-old Frankie in "The Member of the Wedding," which Arizona Onstage Productions opens next week. Carson McCullers adapted the play from her novel of the same name.

"I feel Frankie and I are really similar in the ways that we see things and the way we react," said Berg, 14 and a freshman at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy.

"When I first read the script, I was in shock because so much of it was similar to what I'm going through."

Frankie is 12 and wrestling with adolescence. She wants to be part of a girls club that won't have her, and to be a grown-up who can run away with her brother and his new bride.

Meanwhile, she's living in the American South in 1944. Life will never move as quickly as she wants it to. Nor will change come as quickly as her black nanny, Bernice, wants it to.

Arizona Onstage most often produces musicals, but it's the musicality of a script that speaks to the company's founder, Kevin Johnson, who teaches drama at Basis School.

"There's a Copland- esque feel to this script," said Johnson. "And there's a lot of joy and a lot of funniness in the play. There's never been another time like that, and yet I see parallels with my seventh-grade students today. They feel every single sensation that's out there."

Carol Calkins is directing the play, which has long been a favorite of hers.

"McCullers' mentor was Tennessee Williams, who it is said helped her shape this script," she said in a phone interview.

"To me, this play has such gorgeous language. She has this love for picking the right word."

Like Berg, Calkins found a story that resonated with her.

"When I first read the book, I thought this was someone having the same thoughts I was," said Calkins, who was an adolescent when she first read McCullers' novel.

But she also recognizes that the story goes beyond the coming-of-age story of a young girl. America, too, was going through serious changes, thanks to World War II.

And the South was just a decade away from the explosion of the civil-rights movement.

Bernice feels the change in the air, as does her jittery beau, Honey, who longs to leave the South in search of a better place.

"The Member of the Wedding" is "a kitchen drama about relationships," said Calkins. "But the bigger world is out there, and it's knocking on the door."

If you go

"The Member of the Wedding"

• Playwright: Carson McCullers.

• Presented by: Arizona Onstage Productions.

• Director: Carol Calkins.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday (preview) and next Friday (opening). Performances continue through May 1.

• Where: Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music & Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

• Tickets: $15 preview; $27.50 regular performances. Discounts available.

• Reservations/information: 1-800-838-3006, www.arizonaonstage.org or 882-6574.

• Cast: Daria Berg, John Brownlee, James Cockrell, Carolina Colantuoni, Dylan Page, Carley Preston, Taylor Rascher and Nick Trice.

• Running time: About 2 hours, with one intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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