By Will Hoheisel
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – Last Friday and Saturday, attendees of “The Beats Go On” performance at Camden County College were treated to a unique and, surprisingly, participatory theatrical experience.
This experience began when these people were “directed” by silhouettes lined along the walls of Lincoln Hall to the stage entrance of the Dennis Flyer Theater.
Inside, the stage was set up like a coffee house or cafe. To the left of the entrance, a jazz trio played live music on the piano, bass and bongo drums. In the center of the stage was a platform surrounded by two screens that were shaped like TVs from the 1950s. On the right, a stand was set up where attendants served coffee and water to their “guests.” Laid out across the stage were 10 tables that could seat four people and five more against the back wall that could seat two (up to 50 people total). The tables were topped with white and red-checkered tablecloths, fake candles, and containers filled with pretzels and chips.
These little touches on the stage evoked the sense of a different yet familiar era to some audience members.
“It was a nice trip back to . . . my younger years,” said Paul Introcaso, a retired man from Westville, N.J., last week.
After the audience got settled, the lights above the stage dimmed and Dan Patrick, the director and “host” of the Readers’ Theater Project show, began with an introduction. Among the usual tips about not using cell phones or taking flash photography, he encouraged the audience to snap their fingers instead of applauding the performers.
This little gesture, in addition to the cafe setting, not only resembled the “Beat era” but also brought the experience a little closer to the audience.
“It made you part of the play,” Introcaso said.
Throughout the two parts of “Beats” (there was an intermission), the cast brought the characters of the poetry and their emotions to life while the projectors showed images and video that depicted the settings.
Some of those emotions reached the audience as well. For instance, Violet Davis, an executive administrative assistant from Atco, N.J., was particularly touched by some of the poems in the second act.
After the show ended, the cast and crew were tired but relieved the show was as successful as it was.
“Even when things went wrong . . . everything got . . . fixed so smoothly and everybody put so much effort into it,” said Karen Israel, a psychology major at CCC who was a voice actor in the show.