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Ohio State’s Wexner Center to journal through life of Susan Sontag

REBORN’ is scheduled to be presented Nov. 15 - 18 in the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Performance Space.

Annie Leibovitz’s photographs of Susan Sontag which are on display at the Wexner Center for the Arts depict the American writer, political activist and filmmaker as a cultural figure. But “SONTAG: REBORN,” a theatrical portrait of her, delves deeper and gets personal.

“SONTAG: REBORN” has been adapted from the first volume of Sontag’s journal by Moe Angelos, who also performs onstage. The journals begin from when Sontag was 15 years old and cover the years 1947 to 1963.

“SONTAG: REBORN,” a production of The Builders Association, is scheduled to be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Wexner Center’s Performance Space.

The Builders Association is a “performance and media company that creates original productions based on stories drawn from contemporary life,” according to its website.

“We (The Builders Association) always strive to have the media be absolutely important to the story,” said Angelos, who is part of the Artists’ Advisory Committee for The Builders Association. “The media, videos and images can be used in lots of different ways. It can help the play move forward. It can tell you something you did not know from what the actors are saying on stage.”

Angelos portrays Sontag’s early years onstage, and her older years are portrayed via video projection by Angelos as well.

Chuck Helm, director of performing arts at the Wexner Center, said this dual performance helps give a more clear picture of Sontag.

“The major part, you see Moe onstage as a young woman. You also can see black and white video images of Moe, portraying when Susan Sontag was mature,” Helm said. “Those images are hovering over young Sontag’s shoulder, commenting through her facial expressions. That kind of interpretation makes it a particularly rich portrait of Susan Sontag.”

Helm said the audience members do not need to know anything about Sontag before attending the performance.

“Obviously, if you know a little bit about Susan Sontag it will help to understand her better, but you don’t have to have a thorough understanding about Susan,” Helm said. “The storyline is very clear. You follow what she was dealing with.”

Helm added that even people who are familiar with Sontag might not be familiar with the story of how she evolved as an artist.

Angelos echoed Helm’s comments and said Sontag’s early life will likely amaze people no matter what they know about her.

“Sontag lived her life with full manner and it is wonderful to see the development,” Angelos said. “It’s pretty amazing to see what traces she left behind for us in her own journal.”

Alissa Finke, a first-year in environmental science, said she thinks “SONTAG: REBORN” will offer an opportunity for learning.

“I think college students can connect with her story,” Finke said. “I feel we could learn lessons from it, seeing where’s she came from and knowing where she went in her life and seeing her struggles.”

Angelos agreed and said many people, particularly college students, could learn valuable lessons from Sontag’s early life.

“She was very honest about trying to work those things out in her life, even though it sometimes follows tremendous pain,” Angelos said. “Especially students can learn about trying. Also, Sontag will tell you that it is OK to be serious and to care about what you are thinking about in a very serious way. That is actually a good thing.”

Tickets for the production are $17 for Wexner Center members, $10 for students and $20 for the public. Tickets can be purchased from the Wexner Center’s website or at the box office.
 

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