Monday, March 9, 2009

Interview: Maria-Christina Oliveras of "Fabulation"

The curtain may be down on Fabulation, but we couldn't resist getting a few final words from some of the talented actors who visited our theater and city for this fantastic show!


Working in the Box Office, I received phone calls over the last month requesting tickets not for Fabulation, but for "Fabulocity," "Fabulosis," “Fabulon,” "Fabucation," among various other inventive titles. These creative titles echo the meaning of fabulation itself; the act of inventing or relating false or fantastic tales. Our patrons have not gone to the extremes in inventing false tales about Fabulation, but many have inquired exactly what it is about. After viewing the show myself, I have been tempted to ramble off Flow's final verse of his compelling epic, yet unfinished poem about Brer Rabbit:

"It be 'bout who we be today/ And in our fabulating way/ 'Bout saying that we be/ Without a-pology/ It is a circle that been run /That aint no one ever won/ It that silly rabbit grin,/ 'Bout running from your skin..."

But instead, I explain that Fabulation is about a career driven woman who has worked her way to the top of a PR firm and suddenly finds herself broke, on the verge of a divorce, and pregnant, forced to face her roots and go home to her family in the projects. "It's a comedy," I explain, but then rethink; how is that description I just explained comical?

It is the satirical punchy moments that have brought laughter to our audiences, while leaving them contemplating issues of race, social class, identity, and even the definition of success.

As Undine Barnes Calles bosses about her Post-it wearing secretary and listens to her accountant inform her that her Argentine husband has left her with nothing, the audience watches a social climbing woman's true identity unravel. She is forced to go back to Brooklyn where she has not seen her family for 14 years. When Undine reluctantly returns to her mother, father, brother, heroin-addicted grandmother, and even the jump-rope champion girlfriends of her youth, she begins to shed layers to what might be a social fall, but might also be a moral rise.

As I had the opportunity to sit down with Maria-Christina Oliveras, who played the post-it-clad assistant Stephie, among her multiple roles in the show, we discussed the major themes in Fabulation such as the notion if image, the meaning of success, the ideas of perception of race and class, as well as the pressures to blend and assimilate within society.

"The script is wonderful in that it touches upon interracial class issues that have been explored, but not yet produced." Oliveras admits it is indeed a challenge, but a challenge that forces her to evaluate not only herself, but humanity as a whole in illuminating different types of people through her multiple character roles. "It’s about finding a tone, honoring the character, and finding moments larger than life, but staying grounded in truth and reality."

Oliveras concurs with me in that "[Fabulation] is funny, yet tragic." She hopes the audience is able to watch these different characters and go beyond their comic caricatures. "I hope they are able to see another dimension, and see them as human beings struggling." Moreover, she hopes audience members can evaluate what is truly important to them and what makes their identity. What if, like Undine, everything you have is taken away from you? What would you really do? Where would you go? Overall, Oliveras would like the audience to expand their sense of empathy. "Everyone struggles; the person sitting next to you in the theatre might be the person who just lost their job, or the person taking the extra shift so that their child can have that new winter coat."

The Education and Community Department at CENERSTAGE has given Oliveras the opportunity to speak about these important issues highlighted in Fabulation in local high schools and universities. Within her discussions, she encourages students to think about stereotypes and how people are perceived. "I think this show really pushes you to think about perception and how you are perceived, something that many youth deal with on their path to self discovery." Along with that, she has asked these students to think about success; what does success really mean, and who defines success?

Perhaps success for a character like Undine's brother Flow it means concluding that epic poem on Br'er rabbit. We can only imagine how Flow ended his epic poem, but possibly it might be something like this: "...It is a circle that been run /That aint no one ever won/ It that silly rabbit grin,/ 'Bout running from your skin/And underneath, you find that identity clinging from within."


Photos: Crystal Anne Dickinson and Maria-Christina Oliveras in Fabulation, photo by Richard Anderson; Maria-Christina Oliveras.

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