Miller’s Thread Is the Ties that Bind Us to Theatre
- Written by Jason Menard
Threads in London Fringe
Written and Performed by Tonya Jone Miller
Troupe Name: Tonya Jone Miller
Troupe Origin: Portland, Oregon
Playwright: Tonya Jone Miller
Featuring: Tonya Jone Miller
Warnings: Not appropriate for children under 12
Audience: General Entertainment
Solo storytelling drama
Dates: June 6, June 9 at 6 p.m.; June 8 and June 11 at 9 p.m.; June 14 at 7 p.m.; June 15 at 3 p.m.
Approximately 50 minutes
Words can be very powerful. They can entice and explain; they can amaze and inspire. And, as in the case of Threads they can both enthrall and tug on your heart strings.
Threads, subtitled “the very true story of an Indiana farm girl in Vietnam,” is an engrossing one-woman show written and performed by Tonya Jone Miller. The story is told in the first person, but is actually about Miller’s mother Donna Jean.
It is a powerful story that commands the attention of the audience. Performed on a starkly barren and dark stage, broken up only by Miller and a pair of red suitcases, it is a product where all attention is drawn to the words.
It is a risky form of spoken-word theatre, but when done well, it is intensely powerful. And to Miller’s credit, this is theatre done well.
Similar in style (if not somewhat similar in theme) to Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia, Threads is at once familiar in the use of lighting changes, dramatic music, and notable audio cues to highlight key moments and signify changes in chronology.
But whereas Gray kept a table between himself and his audience, Miller’s performance is much more visceral and vulnerable. She stands alone before the crowd, locking eyes with the viewer, and drawing the audience into her story. It is powerful and it is emotional.
Threads play a key part both literally and metaphorically throughout this production, and it all starts with a reference to a Chinese proverb, which states, “An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.”
Referencing a period of time spanning from 1962 to 1979, Threads is a non-linear representation of Miller’s mother’s experience, both at home and abroad in Vietnam during the period of the Vietnam War. Though not following any chronological order, the threads of her life and experiences slowly emerge throughout the performance. Though non-linear, the story follows a progression that’s both revealing and compelling.
Threads is a story filled with great joy and great sadness; elation and fear; and – most importantly – finding hope and appreciation in all of one’s experiences.
Miller makes an impassioned plea both in her program and at the end of the play for audiences to support fringe festival, stating that her work would never have come about without the existence of this circuit. But greater than any simple request is the impact that Threads can bring about.
As an intimate production elevated by the intimacy of the setting and the engagement of the audience, Threads is representative of the best that live “fringe” theatre can be. It is an experience that would be diluted in any other format and it is a celebration of the spoken word.
Miller’s Threads bind you tightly to the story and, as the aforementioned proverb states, it’s an experience that will continue to resonate with those who have the pleasure of seeing this performance.
Jay Menard is a communications specialist by day, freelance man about the media by night -- and father and husband first and foremost. Born in Montreal, Jay has bounced between Montreal and London writing and broadcasting on all media: print, Web, radio, and TV. More known for business, news, and sports writing, Jay has always loved attending and writing about the arts, and brings an outsider's perspective built upon on a broad foundation of experience to his work.