This was my second Uprising Theatre Company production, the last one being summer of 2017. Uprising Theatre Company believes in truly telling stories and that these stories can change the world. Their goal is also to tell powerful stories with impactful themes that often relate to the current political climate. They often partner with other organizations that relate to the productions theme. This June, Uprising Theatre Company is producing Apples in Winter by Jennifer Fawcett and directed by Shalee Coleman.
Apples in Winter is a one woman show about Miriam and her relationship with her son. Her song, Robert, was convicted of first-degree murder and has been sitting on death row ever since. On the eve of his execution (specifically 7 hours before), per tradition, he is granted his last meal of whatever he wants. He requests his mother's apple pie. As Miriam begins baking, she goes into the stories of how she fell in love with baking, how it strengthened her relationship with her son and ultimately the story of his murders.
The production is in a site specific performance at St. Peder's Lutheran Church. There was very limited seating due to the fact that it was in the kitchen of the church. Yes, a small industrial kitchen with the metal counter Miriam cooks on serving as the only structure really on the "stage." I knew about this before I saw the show, and it's a big reason why I wanted to attend. When it's appropriate, I think immersive performances are one of the most brilliant things a theater can do. It's taking a risk sometimes but I think this perfectly goes with the script that was performed. Kudos to Uprising and Shalee Coleman took a risk and it paid off.
The show features Gina Sauer as Miriam. This is the first time I've actually seen Sauer perform. I've seen her name in previous cast lists of shows at Lyric Arts (Full Disclosure: We worked together there for some time on their administrative side). Performing a one woman show is a feat in and of its self, how Sauer does it effortlessly. From the moment she walks through the side door to the kitchen, she never drops character.
While the show is only 75 minutes, it can feel almost too short. However the pacing is textbook. Sauer masterfully takes the audience through Miriam's life and journey with her son along how her life is forever changed. The pacing never feels too quick or like it was dragging. This script showcases Sauer through the wide range of emotion she must portray, often switching at a moments notice. Keep in mind while she does all of this...she is baking a pie. Not a make believe pie either. A real pie. Sauer uses real ingredients, heats the oven and cooks the pie. By the end of it, the kitchen smelt of nutmeg, cinnamon and apples.
The script was also pretty fantastic. I think what made it such a unique story to tell (words alone) is it tells a story that we often don't see. When someone is murdered, the media focuses really on the killer and the victims families. Very rarely do we get to see the side of the killer's family. Often they are mentioned briefly but Fawcett takes us into the mind of what it's like to be on the other side and I think that's what makes this script so compelling.
The only thing I really couldn't stand about the production was...that I didn't get pie after. Other than that, it's a really relevant story and Sauer performs it wonderfully. As mentioned before, Uprising also partners with local organizations whose missions are representative of the themes of the show. Below is a list of partners for this production:
Apples in Winter plays through June 9 (this weekend). I highly suggest you purchase tickets in advance as the space is limited and there are only a handful of performances left.