Review: Kari Twyman Soars in “Taking Flight”

Once in a while you see a triple threat on stage that takes your breath away. I experienced the first breathless moment watching Kari Twyman on stage with Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s (GTA) performance of Oklahoma in 2014. From that point on, I declared myself the unofficial president of her fan club. Since then I’ve seen her in just about every production she’s been a part of…In the Heights at both GTA and the Aurora Theatre, GTA’s  Mary Poppins, Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Theatre, GTA’s Godspell, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Aurora Theatre….just to name a few.

It takes a special person to balance both professional and college theater at the same time. Kari is one of those extraordinary people.  While a student at the Gainesville Theatre Alliance (a nationally acclaimed collaboration between the University of North Georgia, Brenau University, theatre professionals and the Northeast Georgia community) she performed in various professional productions in the Atlanta metro area .She’s one of those performers that lights up the stage with her beautiful dancing and radiant smile. If you’re not sure you know who she is, but you’ve seen any of the shows mentioned in the above paragraph, she’s the one that drew your attention with her 100% commitment to whatever character she portrayed. If you haven’t had the blessing of seeing her on stage, she’s only just begun!

Not only is Kari an amazing professional dancer, singer, and actor, she’s also an accomplished choreographer, and co-creator of a new children’s theater company, Collections–who in their first year at Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta was awarded Outstanding Performance and performed onstage in front of an audience of 5000+ children’s theater troupes.

Last Thursday night (May 3, 2018) Kari’s audience saw a new side of her as an artist. Kari presented her Senior Thesis entitled “Taking Flight” to her fans, friends, and family at the Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s Ed Cabell Theater. Just when we thought we had seen everything Kari could do, she created a one-woman performance in which she bared her soul to the audience, digging deep, finding new things, and showing us something new.

The story is a culmination of 2 years of work based on her life’s journey and includes dance, movement with mask work, and dialogue. The stage was set with a large, disorganized pile of boxes representing the basement of Kari’s childhood home.  From there she transported us into the different scenes of her life which molded her into the capable young woman she is today. From the boxes she pulled mementos of her life –a dance bag with pointe shoes used in the opening number inspired by her final solo in ballet class. A passport, which represents her travels back to her mother’s country of origin to visit family members. A flashlight, which she uses through dance to highlight  the feelings in her heart. In one scene she extracts from the boxes masks which represent the different faces she wore when she wasn’t true to herself. She also uses a full-length mirror frame with which she explores her features looking to find the person within.

Probably the most vulnerable scene is her exposition of an incident of underage drinking, which she admits was, “Not the brightest moment in my life,”  and where she spent a night in jail. The audience is introduced to two women who took care of and comforted this frightened young bird. Kari explained in her talk-back following the performance, “I definitely learned a lot. Those two particular women were really nice to me. In my head I can still hear their voices in general, but the dialogue was played out pretty much verbatim with the words they said to me.”

The finale was on the surface a tribute to her favorite show to date, Godspell; however, she utilized the instrumental of “All Good Gifts” and colored chalk as a metaphor for her future, spreading the chalk out on the stage, molding it into wings like an elated child creating a sophisticated snow angel, and lying down joyfully to assume the wings as her own.

As Gainesville Theatre Alliance director, Jim Hammond, explained to the audience during the talk-back following the performance, the idea of a senior thesis project is that the student is able to leave the program with a planted seed that has sprouted, so that it can be developed into something they can take with them and develop further.  Every part of this performance was so clearly communicated and relatable, and the 30 minute performance left the audience wanting more. Hopefully, we will see Kari in a more extended version of Taking Flight again in the future.

Speaking of the future, here’s where you can see Kari perform in the upcoming months:  She’ll be joining the Aurora Theatre’s production of Mamma Mia! at Georgia Tech June 9-24th. From there she moves on to the Atlanta Lyric’s production of AIDA, August 17th-September 2nd followed by  The Wallace Buice Theatre Company production of Parade September 27th-October 7th.

–This article is the first installment in a 3 part series. Check back soon for a synopsis of Keri’s talk back session as well as an exclusive interview with Kari.

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Jody Key –Speakeysie Managing Editor

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