As a little girl, along with many, many other little girls I suppose, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina.
As an adult, who never danced much passed the age of 9, it’s become much more of a dream to watch dance and to now understand that, as with any other art form, there is good, there is the best and there is something more…Martha Graham was that something more.
This play is written in the form of an audience with Martha late in her life as she bequeaths pieces of herself to those who would stop her from dancing. It takes us deep into her world, at least as deep as she will allow. Martha recounts anecdotes of her life as a dancer, how she developed her unique technique and how she transformed the art of dance worldwide.
Within the confines of the play she demands from those she loves, as well as from us, the respect she surely deserves.
Christina Carlisi plays Martha and her own obvious talents as a dancer allow her to quite literally ‘show’ us a glimpse of the extraordinary Martha Graham. I have to admit that I didn’t know too much about this icon of dance, but by the end of the evening I felt I had been privileged to eavesdrop on her inner most circle, to glean an insight into this woman who had the strength not only to create ‘modern dance’ but to recreate it over and over again.
Martha Graham was tough and brave and completely uncompromising.
The kind of person who simply could not take ‘no’ for an answer, she began dancing at 22, which is incredibly late, but clearly she was born for it. I suppose without the restrictions of a formal training she was able to defy convention, to push boundaries and to form herself and others into what we know accept as ‘traditional modern dance.’ She danced professionally well into her 70s and taught and choreographed well into her 90s.
Although I dreamed as a child of being a dancer, that dream was left behind long ago, so I attended this play with no real knowledge of its subject. I had no preconceptions, no expectations and yet I found myself totally transfixed by Ms Carlisi and her interpretation of the ‘Picasso’ of dance. She seemed to completely disappear into the role, to inhabit Martha Graham, with a grace and assuredness that only a true dancer could. She became her.
I gather that for an actor the task of portraying someone real can be a daunting one. A character such as Martha Graham, will all her symbolic status and legendary celebrity could only make it all the more difficult. But Ms Carlisi effortlessly danced us through this one act play with spirit, life and elegance. The simple staging and the room she was given by the talented director Stewart J Zully made the performance all the more believable and you could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire show, such was the effect on the audience.
If you love dance then "Martha" is a rare treat to be sure.
But if you enjoy intimate and profoundly moving theatre, then you really should see this play. Theatre has the unique position of connecting us to people and places and worlds we would never have the opportunity to see, to transport us in a way that no other art form can do…except, perhaps, dance. So here is the chance to see the best of both these worlds, and I recommend that you take it.
"Martha" is only playing at The Whitefire Theatre for a little over a month, March 12 - April 16, so don’t dawdle!!
Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., , 91423
March 12 - April 16 - Sundays at 7.30
By Ellen Melaver
Starring Christina Carlisi
Directed by Stewart J Zully
Windy Productions (Producers), David Svengalis (Technical Director), Derrick McDaniel (Lighting Design), Candice Cain (Costume Design), Camille Loftin (Choreographer)