WAAPA students take on Anna Deavere Smith’s powerful ‘Fires in the Mirror’

There are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth. This emphasis on multiple viewpoints is the focus of Anna Deavere Smith’s award-winning play, Fires in the Mirror, which recreates the stories behind the Crown Heights race riots.

In August 1991, simmering tensions in the racially polarized neighbourhood of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York, exploded into riots after an African American boy was killed by a car in a rabbi’s motorcade and a Jewish student was slain in retaliation. That the student was an Australian brought this tragedy to our shores.

After interviewing people from both the Jewish and African American communities affected by the riots, Smith distilled these interviews into a play of 29 monologues. Using the exact words of the interviewees, she created a piece of verbatim theatre that portrays the complexity of racial and ethnic issues in America.

WAAPA’s 3rd Year Acting students bring Fires in the Mirror to the stage of the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre, under the direction of visiting artist Charles Allen, from Thursday 8 to Wednesday 14 September.

Originally from Tennessee, director Charles Allen enjoyed a successful acting career in Los Angeles before moving to Australia in 2008. In addition to his freelance work as an actor, coach and director, Allen has been a lecturer at QUT and former Head of Acting at the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts in Brisbane.

“The title of the play suggests a vision of art as a site of reflection where the passions of a specific moment can be examined from a new angle and better understood,” Allen explains.

“This play asks that audience members step beyond their personal worldviews to grasp a larger understanding of the problems that plague our society.”

Fires in the Mirror is theatre that’s powerful and thought-provoking – and it’s your last opportunity to see the 2022 Acting cohort perform before they step out as graduates into the professional world.

Fires in the Mirror is playing at the State Theatre Centre from Thursday 8 to Wednesday 14 September at 7.30pm, Matinee Sat 10 June at 2.00pm. For tickets and more info, head to artsculturetrust.wa.gov.au

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