J. Ariadne Calvano
J. Ariadne Calvano

UofL Theatre Arts presents “Fires in the Mirror” by Anna Deavere Smith Nov. 7-17 in Thrust Theatre.   

The play, which explores perspectives on the 1991 riots in New York City, is written as a one-woman show. But director Ariadne Calvano has cast eight actors to portray two-to-three roles each, which are both similar to and different from how they identify, whether by race, gender, ethnicity, class, religion, etc. 

“I began the process with a question: Can we ever truly understand something from another person’s point of view?” she said. “The production will challenge the audience to try to shift their perspective, experience and identity, rather than passively sitting in judgment.” 

The play is based on riots that occurred in the Crown Heights after a Hasidic man’s car jumped a curb, killing Gavin Cato, a black 7-year-old. Later, in what appeared to be an act of retaliation, Yankel Rosenbaum, a Hasidic rabbinical student, was stabbed to death. 

The play will contain an interactive element. The app “Poll Everywhere” will gauge audience perspective on complex issues throughout the performance.   

“This show remains relevant in many ways,” Calvano said. “Communication between folks from different backgrounds continues to polarize America today. It would be simplistic to boil down the show to tensions between the black and Jewish communities in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, or to believe that there is a single Jewish or Black perspective. Part of the challenge of this play is to unpack the levels of connection between the people represented while also marking their individualism.”

There also will be two post-show panel discussions led by UofL dramaturg Janna Segal:

Nov. 8: Theater artists will share how Smith’s work has influenced them. Panelists include: Calvano; Janelle R. Dunn, learning and creative engagement associate at Actors Theatre; Diana Grisanti, co-artistic director of Theatre 502 and Keith McGill, comedian, actor and Actors Theatre teaching artist.

Nov. 14: Conversation will address how the play resonates with Louisville today. Panelists include Rabbi David Ariel-Joel from The Temple; Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition and Marian Vasser, UofL director of Diversity Education and Inclusive Excellence.

This is the second production in Theatre Arts’ “Season of Black Plays” which kicked off in August with “King Hedley II.” 

Thrust Theatre is on UofL’s Belknap Campus, 2314 S. Floyd St. All plays start at 8 p.m. with 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for UofL faculty and staff and $10 for UofL students. To order tickets or for more information, call the box office at (502) 852-6814 or click here

Hear Calvano and Segal talk about the show on LVA’s “Artebella On The Radio”

“Fires in the Mirror” Cast

Undergraduate students: Chasidy Moore – Anonymous Lubavitcher woman, Rabbi Joseph Spielman and Sonny Carson; Junaid Shazad – Robert Sherman, Anonymous Young Man #1 and Rueven Ostrov; Megan Meyer – Scenic Designer; Lionel Nasty – Technical Director; Cece Phillips – Props Designer; Tyler Hieb – Lighting Designer; Steven York – Sound Designer

First Year MFA Students: Lamar Hardy – Reverend Al Sharpton, Angela Davis and Micheal S. Miller; Candace Spencer – Ntozake Shange, Rivkah Siegal and Norman Rosenbaum; Brandi Threatt –  Anonymous Girl, Leonard Jeffries and Carmel Cato

Second Year MFA Students: Alex Gordon – Aaron Bernstein, Henry Rice and Rosalyn Malamud; Tyler Tate – George C. Wolfe, Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Reverend Cannon Doctor Heron Sam; Jordan Tudor – Assistant Director

Third Year MFA Student: Manuel Viveros – Minister Conrad Mohammed and Anonymous Young Man #2            

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.