Torn in two

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Dance Theatre of Tennessee offers an appropriate coda to the Valentine season with “Aspects of Love," a celebration of dance, music and love that handles all matters of the heart.

Led by longtime Nashville Principal Dancer and Artistic Director Christopher Mohnani, DTT presents a thought-provoking piece, “Two of You," as part of their winter performance. A sexually-frustrated family man (Brian Williamson) leaves his devoted wife (Jennifer Drake) and adolescent daughter (Marian Faustino) to embark on a relationship with a young admirer (Jayson Pescasio).

Out & About Newspaper speaks with the principal characters, as well as Mohnani and creator Ea Torrado about this compelling story, one that tackles the tricky subjects of societal homophobia and romantic desire.

O&AN: What’s the inspiration for this story and how was it developed into a dance piece?

Torrado: The story comes from one of my best friends in the Philippines. We used to live in the same apartment, and one time I came home and he was crying. He’d been having a relationship with a family man, and the man had promised to him that they would be together and he would leave his family. But after a year, the man said ‘I can’t do it.’ I saw my best friend’s heart break. That was hard.

The piece starts with a picture of this family, and everything seems normal and perfect. Then the dad says goodbye. There’s one situation in the house with this family he’s created, and then one with his lover. As it progresses, the man becomes confused, and in the third part they (husband and wife) each have a moment in the middle of the night. The man realizes ‘I love my wife; I love my daughter,’ and he returns to the family. The woman realizes that she’s sacrificed all these dreams, and so she has a hard time as well. But it’s not clear whether he will stay or if he might go back to his lover.

O&AN: What reaction do you anticipate from the audience?

Torrado: I just want the audience to be in contemplation. I want them to really think about the story. Until we decide that what we choose is what we love the most, we aren’t able to enjoy the full capacity of love and commitment.

Mohnani: I think this can create conversation. At the end of the day, we as artists want the audiences to talk about and be aware of these issues. We’re sort of taking a risk with this piece, but as they say, art imitates life.

O&AN: The mother is an interesting figure. Does she really believe that her husband has changed?

Drake: I’m not a mother myself, but I’ve always thought I had a motherly instinct. I look at the relationship that I have with my own mother. This woman cares for her child. But she’s also a wife. At the end, she has a revelation. From her perspective, she’s thinking maybe he really can try and maybe he can love her. It’s definitely not as easy as playing a princess or Aurora or something like that. It’s been very challenging.

O&AN: Marian, as a young child who’s at the mercy of these decisions, how does your character react?

Faustino: Well, the whole piece works as a system, so anything my parents are feeling, I have to react accordingly. As a child, I just know that something is wrong, but I don’t know what. You can just feel the echoes coming from these two people. In this piece you really have to be aware of what the characters are doing.

O&AN: Brian, your character is a conflicted individual, torn between these two worlds. Do you expect the viewer to be angry with you?

Williamson: I’ve never had an affair myself, but I know what he’s doing is wrong. If I were in the audience, I would hate me, too. At the end, you can make your own judgment as to what he does. He does love his family. It’s very open-ended as to what happens. I know if I were this person, that I would go back to my lover, because that’s where my heart is.

O&AN: How does the lover accept that this man has a family?

Pescasio: My character is young, in his early 20s, and he knows that he’s wrecking the family. But he’s everything to me, and I want him to be completely mine. That’s all that I care about.

Mohnani: There’s a point in the second movement where he (the lover) seems to say ‘What’s your issue? What’s your problem?’, and he doesn’t really understand what this man is going through.

Torrado: It’s hard for both of them. Until you come out, nobody knows the real thing. You have this reputation and you try to be what society asks you to be. But there’s a real love there between the two men. There’s a connection. That’s what makes it harder I think. There’s something deeper there.

Performances will be Saturday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. at Harpeth Hall Auditorium (3801 Hobbs Road, Nashville, TN 37215). Tickets are available by visiting www.ticketsnashville.com. General admission tickets are $15 ($12 for students with valid ID) if bought online and are $20 ($15 for students with valid ID) at the door. A pre-show discussion happens 30 minutes before theater door opens.

For more information, visit their website at www.dancetheatretn.org, www.facebook.com/dancetheatretn., call 615-391-5500 or email dance@dancetheatretn.org. Dance Theatre of Tennessee (DTT) is the performing arm of Asian American Performing Arts Society (AAPAS), a 501 c3 charitable organization founded in 2004.