Titus Andronicus, directed by Ray Paolino for the Drama Department of the University of Georgia, Fine Arts Theatre, University of Georgia, Athens (Ga.)
Reviewed by: Janice Valls-Russell and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, University Paul Vale´ry Montpellier 3, 12 April 2017
"...Lavinia, in contrast, was petite and cast almost as a child figure. The absence of visible makeup, the austere hairstyle and tightly buttoned-up clothing, especially the blue coat she wore until the rape scene, contrasted with Tamora’s tall figure, in a panther-like costume, with a feline mane of hair. Lavinia’s white blouse and flared, mid-calf skirt seemed evocative of what an American schoolgirl might be wearing in the 1960s. Booties hid her legs. At the same time, breaking with the initial impression of doll-like submissiveness, her impassioned revelation of the rape brought to the fore the idea of books as tools of emancipation and empowerment. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, in a university context, this staging underscored how a victim may speak out through books, through the classics, in a powerful rendering of Shakespeare’s dramatic scene, when Lavinia physically grapples with her Ovid to reveal her fate through the myth of Philomel. This importance of words was also in keeping with the director’s overall attention to the text of the play, apparent in the blocking that tended to favour frontal delivery, so that the audience could (re)discover the extent to which the language is, to quote Paolino, ‘beautiful . . . rich . . . muscular’, an ideal medium through which to invite audiences to probe their own responses to violence. To these reviewers, who saw this production after visiting the Georgia Museum of Art, also on campus, and its wonderful collection of African American Art, and who wrote this after visiting Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, this Lavinia was a Lavinia from the South, simultaneously speaking out to all of us and in the name of all victims, and this production a fitting reminder that, to echo William Faulkner and an upcoming exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art, ‘the past is never dead’.
The first time I met Brittney, she was the Graduate Teaching Assistant for my History of African American Theatre class at the University of Georgia. We’d never crossed paths before that class, but I am so grateful that we did. That class was the beginning of me declaring myself a theatre major. I had always enjoyed the arts and had nothing but respect for those who made it a lifestyle. I’d never had the courage or the confidence to do such a thing until Brittney told me that she saw something in me. It was after a performance my group members and I had to do in front of the class. I was very nervous because though I was enjoying every moment of the class and the experiences that came along with it, I was very self-conscious that I wasn’t good enough. Until she told me that I was. She is the most kind, warm-hearted, gentle, intelligent woman I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
She brought me out of my shell more than she probably knows and gave me the initiative I needed to do something I love. She has coached me through countless monologues and has always has constructive criticism that I used to better my skill and my technique. She is a wonderful friend whom I can talk to anything about. She genuinely cares about my well being, my mental state of mind, and whether or not I’m doing what I love. Brittney is an amazing teacher, mentor, counselor, but most importantly she cares. I have thrown myself into the theatre world and I am seeing how much of the right decision it was. I truly owe it all to Brittney.
-Ashleigh, THEA 4480/6680 History of African American Theatre
Brittney is extremely dedicated and passionate about her work. I have worked with her on outreach for the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Georgia, and she never fails to inspire me with her balance of professionalism and entertainment when talking to and working with high schoolers and perspective students. She truly cares about them, and wants to see them succeed in college and beyond. I have seen her work with kids who come to her shy and downtrodden, and leave with a newfound confidence and a positive outlook on life. She is always able to address their questions and concerns, and if she can't, she always knows who can. She does extensive preperation before visiting or workong with any of the kids, because she wants to ensure that she is giving them nothing less than her best. She also makes sure that everyone assisting her operates with the same level of professionalism and preparedness that she does.
Having someone give us that extra push to to be our best self is extremely beneficial to myself and anyone else who works with her. I believe I speak for anyone who has worked with her when I say that working with Brittney is one of the most rewarding experiences I've had.
-Eric, Outreach & Recruitment for UGA Department of Theatre and Film Studies
I first met Brittney in a beginner’s acting class that she taught my sophomore year of college. Out of all the acting classes I’ve taken, Brittney has been one of the most helpfully constructive teachers. She was attentive to the students’ needs and constantly did everything she could to ensure that everyone was grasping the lessons and growing as actors throughout the class. If a student was not understanding something, she spent time working with them and supporting them until they achieved their goal within a scene or monologue.
On the two separate occasions that I decided to audition for UGA’s Theatre department, Brittney has taken time out of her schedule to personally coach me. Her feedback is knowledgeable and honest in a way that moves my monologue work forward in understanding my character’s objectives tactics. I could not be more grateful for the time and energy that she has dedicated to helping me achieve my goals as an actor.
-Kileigh, THEA 2010 Acting for Non-Majors
It wasn’t for you, Brittney I don’t know if I would want to be an actor today. The moment you stepped into the room it seemed as if you just soaked up the air in the room. There is a sense of energetic aura you give off that seeps into others in the room, whether they know it or not. I only took the class due to a mild interest in acting, but you took that mild interest to another level. Acting wasn’t simply just pretending to be another thing anymore. There were steps, procedures, and training needed to become an actor.
One of the first things we learned was how to breathe. I thought breathing was just you know, breathing but I learned momentum and build up through it and how breathes could raise the stakes in certain scenes. Not only was breathing emphasized but posture, vocal warm ups, confidence, especially confidence was taught. The foundation was set all I needed was a little push to really get going. When you told us we would get bonus points for auditioning I really just wanted the points, never did I dream I would get casted. I had no idea what to do or what to say so all I had was you for guidance. You helped me go through being a stage actor and then coached me individually on my monologues. You told me there that when I perform you don’t see “another character but I see you. There is something special about that I want you to know.” That line is what really got my chains rolling. I made a firm decision to continue acting and now am getting ready to act in Korea. People always say you never know what could happen. And you know what? They’re right. Thea 2010 and especially Brittney S. Harris set such a strong foundation for my acting career. What I hope that you continue in your coaching/ teaching career is set more building blocks for more actors. You can never have enough talent and who knows maybe 20, 30 years in the future you may have a tree of mentees you have coached over the years. And we would just branch out and create more trees. But you would be the start.
So my biggest take away from you is seeing you as my acting role model and hope that you have more success stories as well. If I were to offer one piece of constructive criticism maybe spend a little more one on one time with your most passionate students? And really train them into the next generation of actors. Other than that really just amazing work Brittney and Thank you for everything you have taught me.
- Issac, THEA 2010 Acting For Non-Majors