Alumna's many characters empower women
Posted April 7, 2006
Rhiannon Mim
Alumna April Shenkman performed a one-woman show last Friday in the Cabaret Theater as part of the Engendering Diversity and Community conference. The play, “Pink Clouds Over Capricorn Meets Cosmic Cupcake Conniption,” which was also written by Shenkman started off as two plays. The theme of the piece reflects Shenkman’s overall belief that every person has unrecognized potential.

Transcendence, unrealized possibilities, Breast Cancer awareness and self-discovery were only a few of the themes woven throughout “Pink Clouds Over Capricorn meets Cosmic Cupcake Conniption,” a debut combination of two one-woman shows put on by performance artist and University of La Verne alumna April Hava Shenkman March 31 in the Cabaret Theater. The show concluded the second annual Engendering Diversity and Community conference.

Multiplicity proved to be another theme of the night, as offshoot personalities taken from Shenkman’s own life made up the unusual characters that transpired onstage.

“The thing with this type of work is that it all comes out of me, so to call it personalities is the same as saying different feelings, emotions and thoughts on life,” Shenkman said. “We all have many and because it’s a performance piece, sometimes it’s easy to put that into characters. They each represent different parts of me.”

With stilted movements and a blank stare, followed by rapid blinking, Shenkman first conveyed the Kimono Queen, a geisha doll representative of female repression and an unrealistic image of beauty. Throughout the performance piece, the Kimono Queen struggled to discover herself and accept her newfound freedom.

“Pink Clouds” and “Cosmic Cupcake Conniption,” originally two individual performances, separately told the stories of the Kimono Queen and Gaya, the goddess of Earth who suffered from abandonment and years of neglect. Shenkman said the combined show explored the idea that people must first take their own steps toward improvement, realizing their full potential, before attempting to improve the Earth.

“The Earth needs help but we must help ourselves first; bettering ourselves spiritually, emotionally and mentally,” Shenkman said.

Wardrobe and accent changes signified the emergence of new characters.
For example, as a Cha-cha began and Shenkman shed her kimono down to a black leotard, old-fashioned pantaloons and tights, pieces of “the clown” materialized. Donning a white flowered kimono, she then mastered the presence of a smoker, making the small audience laugh with jaded, yet witty anecdotes, told in a New York accent.

“Pink Clouds” was originally organized in honor of Shenkman’s mother’s journey to recovery from Breast Cancer, and the color pink stood out in several costumes and props. Shenkman said her one-woman show paralleled her mother’s “one-woman” journey, concentrating on rejuvenation.

“You go through this journey and it breaks you down; you get rid of what’s not important and start to hold on to just the core of what is important,” Shenkman said.

Shenkman also said she had struggled to combine the two shows into one while keeping the ideas and characters present; making the performance a true representation of herself.

“I had to reinvent the characters to make them alive to me and to make the words I was speaking three years ago mine today,” Shenkman said. “The voices had changed.”

Shenkman’s performance went beyond practical communication, as she conversed in long sentences of gibberish and impromptu dances rather than sensible language.

Kirsten Ogden, assistant professor of English and a member of the conference, said Shenkman was an important addition to the conference for this very reason.

“I knew she had these wonderful ideas about language, women and different ways of communication,” Ogden said.

Shenkman said she also intended to touch on the concept of “untapped potential” through her performance.

“I hope they walked away feeling inspired to want more of themselves and of life,” Shenkman said.

She characteristically ended in triumph, taking on the persona of a circus entertainer by slipping on a top hat and black and yellow band coat before performing a silent tap dance with a smile on her face and revealing another theme – the celebration of life.

Overall, the audience seemed moved by her one-woman journey.

“It was refreshing,” Brianna Roth, a senior theater major, said.

“It was simple truth combined with art, so it ended up being beautiful,” she added.

Kady Bell can be reached at rzezna65@yahoo.com.

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