An Emotional Sing Along

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Julie La.

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Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry are few of the many artists that became famous and overshadowed their influencers. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is considered to be the Godmother of rock ‘n’ roll, but she wasn’t recognized for her contribution until 2018, where she was inducted into the Roll of Fame.

Playwright Cheryl L. West along with director Randy Johnson brought to life, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s story through the play Shout Sister Shout! at the Seattle Rep. The musical had a powerful and intriguing storyline of an artist whose legacy was forgotten. Sister Rosetta Tharpe's story has many twists and turns. She crossed boundaries and disregarded social and cultural norms of her time. Throughout the play, there were many interactions with the audience. Carrie Compere who played Sister Rosetta Tharpe along with many others, included the audience into the play. They encouraged the audience to clap along and sing along if they knew the lyrics to a song.

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She Came, She Saw, She Shouted

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Clara Olson.

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When I think of rock ‘n roll, I think about the legends like Mick Jagger or Elvis Presley. I don’t think about a black woman from Arkansas playing gospel music with an electric guitar. And I’m sure the average person doesn’t either. But the newest play being shown at the Seattle Repertory Theater showcases this woman—who pioneered the way for these later legends.

Shout Sister Shout!, written by Cheryl West, showcases the talents and achievements of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a black woman who is considered the “godmother of rock ‘n roll”. Sister Rosetta, played by Carrie Compere, was born in 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, but the play begins in 1962 behind the scenes of a televised performance of a Sunday special. The show soon flashes back to 1933 when Rosetta is eighteen and singing in her mother’s church. As the show progresses, the audience follows Sister Rosetta’s life from her husbands, to her performances, to her gains and losses of both friend and family relationships, and her own personal journey.

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Rockin’ and Rollin’ with Sister Rosetta

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Ngoc-Linh Truong.

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Johnny Cash? Elvis? You may have heard of those names when thinking about rock and roll, but what about Sister Rosetta Tharpe? If you didn’t know, she was a black woman who many called “the Godmother of rock and roll”. In Shout Sister Shout!, from director Randy Johnson, a tornado of sounds and colors flew through the theater as we follow Sister Rosetta from her juvenescence to her final years.

Despite her illustrious career, Rosetta faced lifelong obstacles offstage. “Devil’s music” was what her mom called it. Rosetta, played by Carrie Compere, started out as a young girl performing at church before leaving for New York City. Her mother (Carol Dennis) disapproved of the new music that Rosetta was playing. Their meeting in New York City was the beginning of a difficult relationship in the upcoming years. Her lovers, from her first controlling husband to the singer, Marie Knight, were also unsteady. Career and love clashed in Rosetta’s personal life, where reality eventually sets in. Her church, a place where Rosetta started performing, didn’t accept her because of her new music. These stories from different parts of her life are weaved between the bright lights and energetic singing, playing a quieter role that captured Rosetta’s loneliness as an artist.

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The Godmother of ROCK’N’ROLL

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Kiet Duong.

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The blaring colorful lights amplified the room. Loud gospel music playing. The sound of laughter and clapping filled the room. Many people may think this is a musical. These were the characteristics of Shout Sister Shout!, an engaging play that shows how Sister Rosetta Tharpe has perseverance because she overcame hard times, which have shaped her into a better person. If you did not know, Sister Rosetta is the godmother of rock’n’roll. Born and raised in Arkansas, she grew up playing instruments and singing Gospel music in a church. The superstar then inspired the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and more. With so much explosive energy on stage, it was like you were a part of the play. Overall, the play was a pleasant experience, leaving me feeling delighted and connected at the end. From the small details of moving props, to the beautiful costume, and the lovely wedding at the end. The character development, plot, and interactive parts were very enjoyable from the start to the end.

Shout Sister Shout! had many moments, including the death of Marie’s kids to Sister Rosetta’s wedding, where the audience got to play along and interact with the show in many ways. Some acts were very funny and some were serious. One moment in the play where she performs in the Cotton Club and had us clapping along with one of her catchy songs such as “Down by the Riverside” and “The Train”, the feeling I got from that was like being in a Gospel, rock concert. The play was so realistic, I could feel the happiness in the air. With the audience clapping to “Down by the Riverside” and shouting praises, it felt like being in a church on a Sunday morning. Another scene that had an impact was when Sister Rosetta got a letter from her first husband demanding her to go back to him. She replied with a funny response and the audience bursted out laughing with her response. The feeling of laughter filled the room, being able to laugh can release your stress you are having, which brightens the whole mood from the scene before and prepares us for the next scene. This shows the play can have some light and dark parts to it leaving the audience with discussion questions.

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An Over Decent Play Called Indecent

Review of Indecent at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Tommy Trenh.

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As the warm air began to fill with a cold breeze, the drops of rain hit the wooden floorboards. The dull and dark lighting began to lighten up as the lights reflected through the raindrops to create a glistening effect. These were the characteristics of a play called Indecent, where a group of Jewish actors travel through America and Europe during the early 20th century to spread the works of a writer named Sholem Asch and his play God of Vengeance which featured a love between two women which did not end so well. The play was an overall great experience, with how realistic the scenes were and the story that was being shared about a group of Jewish people before, during, and after World War II.

Indecent had many moments where the stage became very realistic and felt like a 3D movie. One moment that stood out was at the end when Rifkele dances with Manke and rain starts to drop down on the stage. When real rain started to pour down from the ceiling, it began to feel colder and made it feel as if I was in the scene with the actors as well. It made the anticipation for this rain dance scene even more exhilarating as lots of people had been waiting for this scene throughout the play. Another scene that had an impact was when the actors were reenacting God of Vengeance near the end for a small crowd. In the middle of a scene being acted out, tremendous bombs were dropping down and the vibration could be felt throughout the entire theatre. With feelings of fear and tension left from the bombs, it became more suspenseful as the audience did not know what to anticipate from the next scenes. This also connects to how Jewish people had to live in constant fear of being targeted and killed at any time in World War II.

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Finding Balance

Review of Indecent at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Savannah Blackwell.

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*Please note, this review includes spoilers

A show that beautifully demonstrates how Jews (and all people, really) are multidimensional, individual, human beings. Indecent, by Paula Vogel and directed by Sheila Daniels (with the Seattle Rep), weaves the complexities of one’s identity in a powerful hour and forty-five-minute show. Indecent is a play within a play. It follows the playwright, Sholem Asch, and his actors’ process in performing the controversial play, God of Vengeance. In the show, props, light, words, projection, and music come together to create a full and complete story. It was a privilege to witness their interpretation of intersectionalities all humans carry and the commonalities of them with others. We see two lesbian Jews, a playwright with “taboo” ideas, and a Black Jew all in one show. These are identities we rarely see, but they’re very real.

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Indecent: One Hell of a Ride

Review of Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Written by Franklin High School Student, Sarah Luong.

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The tale of a Jewish play featuring a kiss between two women, a piece of art that was refused by many, an edge-of-the-seat story of how this little play boosted to the top of the charts and made its way on Broadway; we are introduced to the Seattle Rep’s Indecent.

As we are taken back in time, we are focused on Sholem Asch, a Polish playwright who wrote the play The God of Vengeance. This play in particular contained “scandalous” themes, two of which were homosexuality and the rejection of one’s faith. Because the play contained such themes, the play could not be produced. A man by the name of Lemml, an amateur towards theater arts, saw its magnificence and helped Asch make his play a sensation. From Berlin to Moscow and to all of Europe, they made their way to America. As things begin to go downhill, Asch became more focused on the tragic events happening back at home, leaving The God of Vengeance in Lemml’s hands.

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A Not-So Queer Story About A Queer Story

Review of Indecent at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student Cecilia Carroll.

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Halfway into the performance, there is a moment where the entire cast within Indecent reveal yellow Jewish stars on their clothes, and one person stands out against the crowd. One star is not just yellow, but a black triangle and a yellow triangle, put together to make the star. The black triangle was used to mark many things, one of those being the mark for lesbians. At first the addition of it was shocking to me, as the black triangle isn’t too often used as a queer symbol, but it rather became a nice addition in a play that concerns a queer Jewish story. Written by Paula Vogel, Indecent tells the story of the writing, producing, success, and censoring of the play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch. God of Vengeance was the first performance on Broadway to feature a kiss between two Jewish women, one the daughter of a brothel owner and the other an ex-prostitute, which gets the cast of God of Vengeance arrested after their first performance on Broadway. While Indecent is not a queer story itself, the way it choses to explore how people intake queer theater, and how intersectionality plays into that, makes it an interesting and worthwhile play to see.

Within Indecent there are two ways in which the characters view God of Vengeance, one view is with disdain, the other is a love for something that dares to show what some may see as obscene within a beautiful light. The romance between the two female leads in God of Vengeance is brought up many times within Indecent, with one particular scene being mentioned above the rest, this is what is referred to as the rain scene. The rain scene is mentioned over and over, and it is most often described as beautiful, one of which that shows the most wonderful love between two characters who just so happen to be women; one character even compares this scene to the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Within this, Indecent shows how queer media and theater can easily be normalized within the eyes of many, allowing some to see it simply as another love story. Meanwhile, there are others within the story that see the love between two women only as something wrong. Within the scene where Sholem Asch first shows God of Vengeance to others, he is met with a clear message: That the story of two Jewish women falling in love at a brothel is not what the world needed to see, especially of the Jewish population. This carries on into the opening night of God of Vengeance on Broadway, in which the one who reports the play to the police, which, in turn, gets the cast arrested, is himself a Jewish man. This man gets an entire monologue to explain his motives, about how he cannot understand why the Jewish author of the play would try to show something, seen by many at the time as obscene, as acceptable. Through God of Vengeance, Indecent shows how one’s ethnicity and religion affects how one views a form of media, especially queer theater.

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