LOVE WILL SHAKE
Adapted and Directed by John Schmor
This project was inspired by teaching the sonnets to my students in Acting Shakespeare classes across the years. I had always imagined I would one day be devising with students something intimate, small-scale, probably in the Hope. But we ended up needing a Shakespeare production in the fall slot for the Robinson…
– so I at first abandoned thinking about the sonnets and tried to look for a play to do. I re-read a number of possible plays but kept coming back to the sonnets, which I regard as a kind of heart-map for so much that I admire in the plays.
The challenge became how to find a way to bring the sonnets to a larger scale, to use the poems but also the narrative woven into the full sequence (Poet loves beautiful young man. Poet then loves dark lady. Poet finds out beautiful young man and dark lady are having sex. Poet loses in love but gains in wisdom.)
I freely borrow, not just from Shakespeare, but also an idea from Oscar Wilde and also a wonderful book on who played what in Shakespeare’s company (most of it clever speculation – but still – the argument is not improbable that Shakespeare wrote for particular people over time – and these actors had influence on the kinds of characters Shakespeare created). My first proposal draft for season selection approval was written very quickly over a two-week period. A number of students helped me to see my way through several revisions and expansion, especially Charlie Van Duyn, who had major influence on structure, and Sophie Kruip, who organized a group of graduating seniors to do a reading only days before auditions last June.
Casting changed things again, especially Andrew Nuguyen, who auditioned with the very song he performs to open our show. I cut one character and added Feste in because of Andrew and his song. Andrew Krivoshein, who plays William M., read so well for two roles, William M. became a far different character than originally drafted. Everyone in this cast invented key moments and inspired me to write and re-write, and not one of the actors ever complained about the almost nightly changes through our rehearsal process. I think the strongest influence on the shaping of this show’s text has come from Maggie Stabile, my assistant director, on whose honesty and clarity I learned quickly to rely. And my notes here are just about how the text developed – so much more was contributed or collaboratively created with designers, choreographers, musicians and stage managers! It has been a wild adventure that I hope you know now includes you – as any kind of performance is a collaboration with the audience: “Let us, ciphers to this great account, on your imaginary forces work.
By Heidi Schreck
Directed by Tricia Rodley
“Her table is hunger.” Though this is a line from Hadewijch’s poem about paradoxes of love, it is also a fitting introduction to Margery Kempe. I suggested Creature for UT’s season dealing with “code” because Margery Kempe spent most of her life trying to “crack the code” of faith’s mysteries and miracles. Margery’s hunger – on many levels – is something I feel tangibly when reading The Book of Margery Kempe. Heidi Schreck has rendered Margery’s voracious search for faith in Creature as well, sometimes heartbreakingly, but also with so much humor.
In her author’s note for the published version of Creature, Heidi suggests the play is “a kind of collision between the contemporary and medieval imaginations.” With that guidance, we are not attempting to stage Margery Kempe’s life, but rather to envision this story about a period of her life. While there are plenty of historical accuracies, there are also contemporary liberties taken. We have considered the Hope an environment in which the play can unfold with an audience. The design has been undertaken with the “collision” in mind, and also with a shared effort toward theatricality that allows for both expected and unexpected reveals.
Though singing is mentioned in the script during only one scene in the church, Heidi encouraged my choice to try that convention throughout. The musical direction and singing have been approached with a willingness to tackle modernized Middle English carols and songs – not your everyday iTunes sort of endeavor. The Choir has become a conduit between the play and the audience. Through music, lyric, and movement, we hope the Choir encourages our audience to experience the play from different perspectives, especially as its integration may be both soothing and jarring from moment to moment.
Early in our process, we were lucky to have Heidi take part in a weekend of rehearsals. She was able to try a few rewrites for this production. She also helped us delve deeper into our individual relationships with these characters and into our shared relationship with the play. I am reminded of that work each time our Stage Manager, Hallie, begins her emails with something like, “Hello, Creatures.” This play is a shared journey…of creatures. It is not only about Margery’s quest for faith, but it also suggests how that quest may have impacted the people who loved her and wanted to be loved by her. As in theater, life’s personal journeys are so often shared journeys.
You are the next phase in our shared journey with this play. Creature has its own mysteries and miracles. It often challenges perceptions of authenticity with little reassurance. We have tried to allow such mysteries to exist in all of their ambiguity. If that is bothersome, I ask you to consider the title of the play, which always helps me. We human creatures live ambiguously somewhere in between animal and spirit, no matter how we may try to define our differences from other animals or come nearer to our gods. In its mysteries, Creature encourages you to consider your own quest for faith – of whatever kind – a quest that is surely authentic, mysterious, ambiguous, and creaturely.
9 Parts of Desire
By Heather Raffo
Director Michael Najjar
When we hate someone, and are angry at her, it is because we do
not understand her or the circumstances she comes from. By
practicing deep looking, we realize that if we grew up like her,
in her set of circumstances and in her environment, we would be
just like her. That kind of understanding removes your anger, and
suddenly that person is no longer your enemy. Then you can love
her. As long as she remains an enemy, love is impossible.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Taming the Tiger Within
Heather Raffo’s 9 Parts of Desire presents us with the lives of Iraqi women, all of whom have been scarred by war. 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by U.S. and U.K. forces, and we present this play as a tribute to all the innocents who were lost or maimed in that war. Despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December 2011, America still retains a sizeable presence there, and great problems still exist. According to Anna Mulrine of The Christian Science Monitor, “Violence in Iraq from July to October hit its highest level in two years, a discouraging sign one year after the last US military vehicles exited the country and prompts questions about whether the situation on the ground in Iraq jeopardizes America’s national security interests.”(1) From July to October 2012, 854 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 1,640 have been wounded. Up to 122,000 civilians were killed during the Iraq War.(2) The U.S. presence in Iraq remains large, despite the withdrawal. The Embassy of the United States in Baghdad is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world, and 45,000 U.S. troops are still stationed in Iraq.(3) Regarding U.S. troops, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left 6,656 dead, more than 1,700 wounded, almost 130,000 with post-traumatic stress disorder, and more than 235,000 with traumatic brain injury.(4) There are over 280,000 Iraqi refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in neighboring countries, and there are undetermined others that remain unregistered. In addition, 1.5 million Iraqis remain internally displaced.(5)
The list of statistics would fill this entire program. Instead of looking at hard, cold numbers, we choose to focus on the humans who have suffered in this ongoing conflict—namely the women and children. This play gives voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Inspired by Raffo’s 1993 visit to her ancestral homeland, 9 Parts of Desire reminds us that there is no such thing as “collateral damage” or “smart bombs.” Instead, we know that no matter how “just” the war or how “surgical” the operation, there is always death, destruction, and the shattering of human lives left in the wake of wars. It is shocking how little we Americans know about the lives of the Iraqi people despite the fact that we occupied that country for eight years and continue to have such a presence there to this day.
Raffo is clear that, “with rare exception, these stories are not told verbatim. Most are composites, and although each character is based in fact and research, I consider all the women in my play to be dramatized characters in a poetic story.”(6) Some characters are based on historical figures while others are not. For instance, Layal is based on the Iraqi artist Layla Al-Attar, who was killed along with her husband and housekeeper when a U.S. bomb destroyed her house in 1993. Umm Ghada is based on Umm Greyda, a woman who lost eight children in the bombing of the Amiriyya Bomb Shelter. The other characters represent different aspects of Iraqi society: doctors, children, Bedouins, Iraqi exiles, and Iraqi Americans. The Doctor’s monologue about birth defects caused by use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus used by coalition forces is factual and has been well documented by many news organizations.(7,8)
The women in this play are all seeking peace in both their country and within themselves. The play asks us to look past our preconceptions and prejudices and to encounter these women and girls as human beings with the same aspirations, difficulties, and desires that all of us share. If the theatre teaches us anything, it is that only through empathy and compassion can we truly understand another human being. Raffo’s words help to remind us that there is a common humanity that transcends the politics, borders, and ideologies that separate us. Perhaps, through works like these, we can remember those who never had the opportunity to know a world without war.
–Michael Malek Najjar
The Importance of Being Earnest
By Oscar Wilde
Director: Kirk Boyd
Information coming soon!
Breaking the Code
By Hugh Whitemore Based on the book Alan Turing, The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
Joseph Gilg directs: Hope Theatre
An exceptional biographical drama about a man who broke too many codes: the eccentric genius Alan Turing played a major role in winning World War II by breaking the complex German code called Enigma. He was also the first person to conceive and describe computers. After the war he was put on trial for breaking another code- the taboo against homosexuality. This play is about who he was, what happened to him and why.
Set Design: Michael Walker, Costume Design: Erin Gilday, Lighting Design: Janet Rose, Sound Design: Sam Cain, Technical Director: Bradley Branham, Stage Manager: Jennifer Sandgathe
Q&A with Director Joseph Gilg:
- Why did you choose this play?
This play was brought to the Theatre Arts Department by Gene Luks on behalf of the Mathematics and Computer Science Departments. They were putting together programming celebrating the Year of Turing, and international recognition of the hundredth anniversary of his birth. Most of the events they had on their agenda were scheduled for spring, 2013 so we arranged for this production to coincide with those events. Beyond that it is a play that I had on my “To Do” list for some time. It presents the story of a relative unknown who was very influential in the history of the twentieth century and the development of our modern society and who showed enormous courage in the face of an intolerant society.
- In your estimation, what makes the play commercial? To whom will this play most appeal?
The history of the times and Turing’s role in it will appeal to many; his homosexuality and the intolerance of that life-style mid-twentieth century will also resonate with people today. Finally, it is a compelling story, well told and that is always important for a theatre event.
- Are there any special effects or theatrical elements that are compelling?
The math and science that are important to the play are like a special effect. The German’s Enigma machine, and the code that Turing was responsible for decrypting is a fascinating mathematical puzzle that will intrigue and delight people who like that sort of thing.
- What do you think the public should know about this play?
Alan Turing was a genius who made Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential people of the 2oth Century and the top 20 mathematician’s and scientists.
He is responsible for the development of the modern computer having written up the basic idea in 1938; current models running today have not gone beyond what he wrote about in that paper.
He was responsible for the machines and the ideas employed to crack the German Enigma code that allowed the Allies to know German strategy and troop movements from early in the war to its end. Estimates credit his work with shortening the war by at least two years if not preventing a Nazi victory all together.
He was a gay man living in a time when that lifestyle was unacceptable in society and was, in fact, against the law.