Isabelle Daniels, Contributor
Intuition. Chance. Family. Ancestral. Greed. Necessity. These are the six words used by Augsburg alumni Atlese Robinson and Malick Ceesay to describe their play Waiting in Vain, which debuted at the Tjornhom-Nelson Theater on Sept. 21.
It follows the story of four young Black teens who rob a gas station and hide out in an abandoned mall blocks away. As they devise a plan to escape home unscathed, they are stricken with agonizing panic, detachment and nightmares as the media finds evidence pointing closer to their location, preventing them from returning to their esteemed lives.
This work portrays a duality of love mixed with anger, laughter mixed with strife, and calm mixed with terror. The actors embodied their characters, and each one had a vastly different story to tell. They trusted, loved, and depended on one another. I both laughed out loud and felt the hair raise on the back of my neck with the aid of dream sequences and amazing sound and light effects. Their performance encapsulated me all the way to the end, leaving me with questions and leaving me wanting more. I left the theatre asking, “But what if? And how?”.
Before the show, I got the chance to sit down with playwright Malick Ceesay and director Atlese Robinson to talk about the show and their new theatre company: Ambiance Theatre Company. We discussed the show and their journey directing and playwriting. “This whole process has blessed me and given me so much life and love and inspiration,” said Robinson. Ceesay talked about his hope for the impact that the show has on the community. “I hope this story gives sight on the narratives that are untold,” he said. He went on to say that he hopes people can see this opposite world that the characters are living in.
Ceesay wrote this play while taking Augsburg’s Playwriting I course and has been building it up since he graduated in 2017. “Nothing happens until you actually do it, and the fact that we are actually doing it means so much,” he said.
We also discussed their future plans for Ambiance Theatre Company. In the short term, they are working on another play, The Garden, which premieres this November. They also hope to tour internationally someday. We discussed their journey from creating Ambiance to their start with theatre at Augsburg. Atlese, who graduated this past summer, opened up about her beginnings.
“I entered theatre as a very shy person, and a lot of my opinions I didn’t share with anybody,” said Robinson. “Once I started doing theatre it made me crack out of my shell and I saw a different power in myself that I had never experienced before. It showed me that my voice is valid. Not only is it valid, but it is something that other people need to hear.”
Ambiance Theatre not only put on a haunting and beautiful show, but is also run by some of the most ambitious and wonderful people I have had the pleasure to meet. Atlese, Malick and all of Ambiance Theatre is something to watch for, and they inspire us not only as directors and storytellers but also as Auggies. They leave us with this wisdom: “If one person shows their light, three other people show their light, if they show their light, six other people show their light. Then twelve other people show their light, and you have the brilliance of a room shining forth.”
This article was originally published in the September 27, 2019 issue.