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Alithea mimes are home from U.N. Youth Assembly

3:12:55 PM CDT - Thursday, September 07, 2006

By Shannon Littlejohn

The performers of Alithea Mime Theatre are back on campus after one of those experiences of a lifetime: sharing their art at the Aug. 16-18 U.N. Youth Assembly conference in New York City.

Fifty countries were represented at the conference. The Friendship Ambassadors Foundation had invited Alithea's Nick Johnson and Sabrina Vasquez, dance faculty members and co-founders of what is now a professional resident company of WSU. The pair gathered current and former dance and theater majors and went to work.

alithea poster
After its U.N. performance, Alithea Mime Theatre has received more invitations to perform nationally and internationally.
"It was life-changing for everybody," said Johnson of the troupe's experience in New York.
Alithea's opening performance was at the United Nations' Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium on Wednesday, Aug. 16. The 400-seat theater was full, Johnson said, and the audience was floored by "Angels Rising," an intense piece of theater about humans' competitive nature from birth through nuclear holocaust.

"It was like a ripple went through the building," Johnson said. "We were ecstatic. The kids performed very well."

A WSU audience was treated to an informal preview of most of the showcased works on Aug. 14. For 11 a.m. on a Monday, Miller Concert Hall had a respectable crowd that enjoyed "Electric Nights," a funny bit in which glow-in-the-dark bodies appear to become disembodied, a tribute piece to Marcel Marceau, a "sleepytime" piece performed on a stand-up bed, and, of course, the "Angels" work, among others.

The performers also answered questions afterward, a common practice for Alithea.

People don't always understand mime, said Maria Tate, one of the WSU students who participated. A dance major, Tate felt honored to be part of the troupe.

"Mime is a beautiful art form," she said. "It's amazing."

The performances in New York were "absolutely wonderful," said Rodney Miller, dean of the College of Fine Arts, who combined seeing some of the performances with other business in New York.

"They had very positive reactions at every performance, at every turn," said Miller.

It was great representation for Wichita and Wichita State, he said.

"What Nick and Sabrina are doing with Alithea is a fusion of mime with other disciplines," said Miller. "They truly are creating their own path of creativity and artistry."

Alithea also performed on Thursday in the lobby of the United Nations' building and that evening for the Turkish mission and participants of the Youth Assembly. They ended the week on Sunday, performing their entire repertoire at Pace University.

In between performances, troupe members took part in such Youth Assembly seminars as world hunger, AIDS and a session where Gandhi's grandson spoke, said Johnson.

"The whole youth assembly is geared toward a concept of world peace based on people getting to know each other," he said. "That was equally important to me as an educator the travel, the performance, the cultural exchange."

Art is used as a uniter at this conference, Johnson said. The Friendship Ambassador Foundation also sends artists to areas where there are refugees to uplift their spirits.

"It was nice learning as we went along," said Cody Proctor, who graduated in May with a theater degree. "Everyone was so friendly. Once they saw us in performance, they'd come up and say how much they got from it."

Johnson and Vasquez performed alongside Proctor, Tate and Stephanie Davis, Taurean Everett, Javier Perez-Gomez, Angela Johnsen, David Kellam, Lindsey Kirkpatrick, Zach Powell, Leah Swank and Alex Stoll.

After the performances, "we had invitations to Taiwan, India, Hawaii and Connecticut," said Johnson. "We're showing that ambassador-style connection with the world."



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