Students fuse artistic forms to illustrate Greek-like tragedy

Paige Walden, Webster University dance alumna, dances in front of silhouettes projected onto tapestries during a performance of “The Day After” on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Loretto-Hilton Center. Walden choreographed “The Day After” and played the character of Dolus, who accidentally kills another character in the play before killing herself. PHOTO BY CAILLIN MURRAY.

Dre Concepcion listened to Dizzy Gillespie’s jazz classic, “The Day After,” as he reflected on a collection of his poems and journals. Concepcion’s writings were rooted in his feelings from four years ago when he became very ill.

“I was listening to that tune and thinking about all these things I’ve written and never done anything about them,” said Concepcion, Webster University senior jazz major. “A man once told me that the most beautiful and noble thing we can do with our suffering is to make something beautiful.”

From that feeling, Concepcion said, came the feeling of necessity — the need to create based on the emotions he experienced throughout his continued illness.

Concepcion then wrote a 50-page book that tells the story of three characters — Ira, Dolus and Flor — who are caught in a tragic love triangle. Concepcion wrote the book in three parts. When his book turned into an entirely student-produced performance, it was broken into three acts.

Concepcion developed the music from the work of Gillespie for the performance. Paige Walden, Webster dance alumna, choreographed the performance. She chose modern and improv dance styles. The performance took place Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Loretto-Hilton Center.

In the story, Ira and Dolus are married. When Ira leaves for a period of time, Dolus has an affair with Flor, played by Shannon Bucklin, senior dance major. Marcus Johnson, junior dance major, portrayed Ira in the performance.

When Ira arrives home to Dolus, he discovers her affair with Flor. Ira runs away and Flor chases after him. Flor reaches Ira and kills him. Dolus accidentally kills Flor, and then Dolus kills herself.

Dre Concepcion, Webster University senior jazz major, plays the flute during a rehearsal of “The Day After” on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at the Loretto-Hilton Center. Concepcion developed the original poetry as well as music associated with Dizzy Gillespie for the student-produced performance, which took place Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Loretto-Hilton Center. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY EMILY REYNOLDS.

“In the last scene when Dolus kills herself, it reminds me that if I was to succumb to the darkness, the overwhelming heaviness of illness, of stress. … If I was to … let my identity be defined by what I can’t do, then I will forever be what I can’t do,” Concepcion said. “When (Dolus) dies, it’s that release from what she isn’t to something that she wants to be.

“That’s why it’s emotional for me. I’m not enlightened or in a final point, but I see myself day-to-day now as good. That’s, for now, where I need to be. In a way, I’m where I need to be, but I’m not done.”

Concepcion said the story resembles a Greek tragedy in that each character dies due to a flaw. Ira’s flaw is anger, Flor’s is sensuality and Dolus’s flaw is her search for her identity, Concepcion said.

“Why is this book a tragedy? I look healthy. I feel healthy,” Concepcion said. “It’s meant to be seen not as it is. Just how I saw illness not as an illness — I saw it as a metaphor. This whole thing is just an inverse metaphor.”

Concepcion met with Walden almost a year ago to discuss his vision of the performance. Walden said once her Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) dance performance was finished, she focused on “The Day After.” In her B.F.A., Walden danced with her boyfriend, Johnson. Walden said after Concepcion saw the couple dance, he noticed their chemistry and requested they play Ira and Dolus.

Walden said she thought taking on the role of Dolus was going to be a challenge for her.

“She’s not like who I am,” Walden said. “We weren’t picked for matching personalities but the ability to explore that character. … ‘The Day After’ is beautiful, but it’s so dark. It’s tough embodying it and getting so far involved with it.”

Walden said throughout her work with Concepcion, she observed his passion for music and attention to detail.

“The fact that he thinks of every aspect, and he calls it ‘Disney magic,’ but every little thing he does has a purpose,” Walden said.

Walden said choreographing “The Day After” was a great experience for her. Because of this experience, Walden said she would like to potentially work with Concepcion to produce music for her future shows.

“I think if any artist out there has the opportunity to create, definitely do it,” Walden said.

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