On April 27th, 2011, a massive tornado ravaged much of the southeast, including Tuscaloosa. Now, a little over a year later, the Shelton State Community College Theatre Department—in conjunction with University of Alabama professor Steve Burch and community members Paul B. Crook and Kim and Chad Gentry—has developed what can only be described as a “theatrical event” to commemorate the event. Inside the Tornado consists of ten short plays and two songs which explore different experiences surrounding the storm. Except for the first play—“Home” by Paul B. Crook—all of the plays were written by students in Burch’s playwriting class.
Each of the plays made some use of the same impressive set (designed by Jaia Chen): the frame of a house with broken walls and, suspended from the ceiling, a bit of twisted metal fencing with assorted items—a wheelbarrow, a white picket fence—attached to it. The sound and lighting (designed by Frank Duren and Erin Hisey, respectively) were extremely effective at portraying the ambience of a storm—Duren’s sound often included bits of news broadcasts about the storm, as well as sounds of the tornado itself—behind the dramas on stage.
Some of the plays—“The Man in Black,” “Dorm Life,” and “Future Perfect”—presented the experience of living through a storm: the loss of power, the inability to communicate, and the inanity of petty quarrels in the face of a life-threatening situation. Amanda Steven’s “The Man in Black” was particularly moving as it dramatized the plight of Mia (played wonderfully by the very young Margaret Carr), a young girl whose father had died in an earlier storm, and whose mother—Sheila, played by Susie Johnson—would die in the course of this one. Carr’s screams as . . . . . .
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