Loud as whisper 

"I'm fascinated by silent movie stars like Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino," says Ramone Boddie, who evokes the performance style of the era before talkies with his theatrical piece Whisper: The Adam & Eve Story, debuting at A-HOP May 18.

The writer-director explains, "It's a silent theatrical musical event, like the old silent movies. It's narrated with a soundtrack that combines spoken word and music, from Yanni to hip-hop to a few surprises, but the performers don't speak." Whisper's 19 characters include Adam, Eve, the Snake, dancers and exotic animals.

With its lack of dialogue or sound effects, silent film relies heavily on what the audience sees. Yet Whisper's 27-year-old creator is himself visually impaired, having been diagnosed with incurable retinitis pigmentosis at the age of 13. "I have what they call tunnel vision: If you take two pieces of tissue paper and look through them, that's what I see," says Boddie. "But I view it as a blessing, not a handicap. I was in denial about it for years, but when I was 22 or 23, watching TV and walking around the house became more difficult, I realized that there were things I wanted to accomplish while I still can."

A former student with the Freddie Hendricks Youth Ensemble Atlanta, Boddie plans to eventually film Whisper and hopes that the attention received by the stage version will help bring that about. Asked how he overcomes the challenges he faces in directing and designing shows, he says, "I definitely have a vivid imagination."

Whisper: The Adam & Eve Story plays May 18 at 9 p.m. at A-HOP, 840 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. $22.50. 404-346-9833.


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