‘Sibling Rivalry’ explores family relationships

Florida A&M students and others from the Big Bend area came to the Southside Arts Complex Thursday for James Webb’s latest play, “Sibling Rivalry.” 

Marci Duncan, a theater professor, played three characters in the show. Duncan said portraying the roles required tapping into personal experiences.

“I relate to one of the stories because my sister passed,” Duncan said. “The stuff that comes out during those times – you wouldn’t believe it if somebody told you.”

The play consists of 11 scenes, four of which are not tied together. Each scene has two consistent themes: They are set during the time of a family member’s death and they are all about siblings.

The spacing that was used for the show is what thespians call “found space.” James Webb, a playwright and actor who directed the play, said the space was transformed.

“We’re really in a shopping mall plaza, and we’ve made this room into a black box,” Webb said. “But it’s not really a black box. It’s a found space. So you have to ask yourself, ‘How do you make this place as theatrical as you possibly can?’ “

The stage was set in Webb’s favorite stage format – a thrust, which is when seating is on three sides of the stage. This format is traditionally used in runway fashion shows.
The limited seating brought about many supporters. Louise Ritchie, a Tallahassee resident and actress, sat in the front row. The show was not elevated on a stage or platform, so she was just inches away from the action.

“It was a true comedy,” Ritchie said. “I liked the whole idea of ‘we can be family and not like each other.’ “

Frank Lynch, another patron of the theater and Tallahassee resident, was not a fan of the acting. He was more into the dialogue.

“The writing was very crisp,” Lynch said. “I admire writing more than actors. Actors never appreciate writers like I think they should.”

FAMU Essential Theatre students had a hand in the production as well. LaTevin Ellis, a fourth-year theater student from Perry, Fla., jumped at the opportunity to stage-manage the production.

Ellis, who is also the stage manager for the FAMU Connection, which tours the country for recruitment, said there is a distinct difference between working with students and professionals.

“It goes a bit faster here,” Ellis said. “Professionals do things without having to be told.”

Webb said he wrote this show for his students when he used to work in New York.

“I had an acting class filled with students of color,” Webb said. “I wanted to give them some material they could relate to.”

This rendition of the play is not the original. Webb said he re-wrote some of the dialogue.

“I don’t know if I’m ever satisfied,” Webb said. “I think this is a work in progress, you know. The good thing is, since I’m the writer, I get to make changes as I go along. That doesn’t mean the next time I do this show I have to do it the same.”

“Sibling Rivalry” will be at the Southside Arts Complex http://www.southsideartscomplex.org/events/ through Nov 3. Evening productions of the show start at 7 p.m, with matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m. respectively.

Tickets are on sale for $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Student tickets are $10.