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Last Weekend for Ujima’s “The Visit”

30
years ago, Lorna Hill opened a theatre in downtown Buffalo. The first play
performed was a piece written by her called “Anansi the Spider and the
Children’s Bill of Rights”.  Since
then Ujima has put on countless plays, musicals and performances, allowing
countless actors, crewmembers and the like to experience firsthand what goes
into a performance. Ujima is known for its diverse, thoughtful and often
provocative shows. 

Nestled in Elmwood Village Ujima’s theatre is intimate and
comfortable. It is a non-profit theatre, and shows are produced by the company.
Every company member, every volunteer, every actor participates in all aspects
of a production. It is not uncommon to perform, help paint sets and make costumes
for a single show. Through this collaborative effort you get a sense of what
Ujima is all about. When you step into the theatre, there is a sense of that
passion in the air; you get the feeling that you’re part of something special.

I
was able to speak with several members of Ujima before seeing “The Visit”.
Founder and Artistic Director Lorna Hill, Executive Director Rahwa Ghirmatzion,
and Philip Knoerzer, director of “The Visit”. Both Philip and Lorna have strong
theatrical backgrounds, whereas Rahwa discovered her love for theatre and love
for Ujima through a friend back in early 2000 and by 2001, when she was the
executive director. She has performed and developed skills that she never knew
she had–like painting–but is happiest behind the scenes.

Throughout
my conversations with them there was a unifying theme of the collaborative
effort, the love for what they do and a sense of pride that goes along with
every show. Lorna has wanted to do “The Visit” for quite some time and when she
was finally able to, she was overjoyed. “It is a mixed cast and extremely
thought-provoking, with a lot of dark humor. It entertains you and makes you
think.  During every show there is
always a moment that makes you happy that you are involved in the arts. There
has to be, or you wouldn’t do this.  We are completely not for profit, so watching how the
audience reacts to the show is the best feeling, the best reward for all of the
hard work the company does.”

“The
Visit” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt takes place in a small town called Gullen, once
extremely wealthy, but now impoverished. The town is on its last legs and
feeling hopeless until Billionaire Claire Zachanassian (played by Hill) returns
to her hometown of Gullen and offers them a way out, a total of $100 million,
on one condition–they must “right a wrong” that was done to her 50 years prior.
They are asked to murder her former lover, Alfred (played by Peter Palmisano),
the father of the child she lost before being driven out of town. To her, that
is justice.  And it must be done.

The
moral dilemmas that follow make for an interesting and dramatic plot.

The
next show after “The Visit” is “The Green Pastures” directed by Hill, and
running from May 8th to 31st. 
Written by Marc Connelly, it tells the story of the Scriptures in a
light hearted, unique and respectful way. Tickets for “The Visit” range from
$15 to $25.  More information on
Ujima, their shows, history and tickets can be found at
http://www.ujimatheatre.org/ or call
716.883.4232.  TheaterLoft is
housed at 545 Elmwood Ave. 

 

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