Theater fans rejoice! This semester at Reed there will be various productions to enjoy. First, Si Zheng Song’s puppet show Antigona Furiosa is currently being performed in Commons at 8:30pm on Friday, February 3rd and 6:30pm on Saturday, February 4th. Later in March, there will be two shows running back to back. Mark your calendars for Thursday, March 2nd through Saturday, March, 4th to attend Aaron Berlau and Anna Hendrickson’s The Wild Boar of Chernobyl and Will Stevens’ Blue Heart: A Frankenstein Story. Finally, faculty member Barbie Wu and her associate director Jody Read will be leading The Last Croissant and will be performing from April 20th through the 22nd. Student tickets are only $3 for both thesis and faculty productions, so be sure to attend if possible and support our theater majors!
Si Zheng Song’s thesis project Antigona Furiosa retells Sophocles’ Antigone with puppetry and is accompanied by live music. Through a frame narrative, audiences watch Antigone telling her story in an 80s Argentinian cafe. “I hope people will see the play and recognize Antigone from around us. She is a reminder of everyone who talks back to power and fights against something larger in life,” writes Song in an email interview. “By commemorating and bringing these efforts to center stage, we can perhaps direct our attention to celebrating the efforts made, moving past anguish and frustration, and how supporting each other throughout this process builds community, so that as a whole, we can imagine and bring about a world that’s less hostile for more people.”
“The puppets are so cool!!!” Song adds. She extended gratitude to the show artists, her director Luz, the Bon Appetit staff, and the theater department. “[Bon Appetite was] very friendly to us and expressed great support, and we in turn are very glad to bring art and music into their space. It feels good to know that the community welcomes art and is very generous to us,” Song writes. “I’m grateful for the Theatre Department for being patient, supportive, and accommodating throughout this unconventional project, and for being excited about this project.”
“I am very moved by their dedication and sustained engagement throughout the process. And a huge thank you to Luz, who helped me direct this play and who brought a very unique humanness to the project — I really appreciate their efforts and insights! It was a joy to be in the rehearsal room with this group of people, and I hope we deliver that joy to you, the audience.”
As director Aaron Berlau describes, The Wild Boar of Chernobyl is a horror show set in a post-nuclear apocalyptic world. With the human population living underground, a preacher and his family challenge the assumption that the Earth’s surface is uninhabitable and claim that the radiation will in fact save humans. The show continues to follow the consequences of this and the subsequent “crazy” that comes out of this, as Berlau describes. “My designers have already like done a great job of creating images and ideas of what they want to do so throughout the next few weeks, it’s just all going to come to fruition and actually happen and that’s what I’m really excited for: just seeing the show, piece by piece, come together.”
“My whole thesis is about horror theater,” Berlau explains. “I’m trying to create a definition of what it looks like on the stage, how it reads on the text, and create a case for its validity because I feel like horror as a genre so often devalued and looked down upon as a lesser in academic circles.” They add that “this show is especially fascinating the way it discusses religion and science and how that affects the health and safety of a community.”
Hendrickson’s thesis concerns immersive theater: “my role for the show has been to design an immersive set which places the audience inside the world of The Wild Boar of Chernobyl,” they wrote in an email interview, “the script itself is quite horrifying—it’s a very creepy and gory show, and combining it with immersive theatre, which places audiences inside the action of the show, makes it all the more haunting.”
“I think horror has one of the best, most direct ways to approach social commentary and critique,” Berlau continues. “The horror genre is able to explore a lot of important world events, very contemporarily, in a way that other genres don’t have the ability to explore as in depth. As far as horror theater goes, the element of theater is really important because being in the same room as some of these acts that are happening, like having people witness these moments of gore and violence on stage or limbs coming out of other places just really heightens the effects of the play in a way that horror movies can’t do as well.” The Wild Boar of Chernobyl will be performed in the theater annex, across the street from 28 West, during the first week of March.
Through studying different adaptations of Marry Shelley’s original Frankenstein, director Will Stevens of Blue Heart explains how “when you’re telling a Frankenstein story, the least important thing you have to worry about is what actually happens in the book.” Rather, adaptations explore core themes and relevant fears of the society that produced it from industrialization to atomic bombs. Stevens stitched together two plays by Caryl Churchill and created another Frankenstein story to join the legacy. Their story follows a Frankenstein character exiled from home and confronts themes of parenting and generational trauma. Stevens elaborates, “When you spend a lot of time in not necessarily abusive but unhealthy environments and relationships, and then you get out of those environments and relationships, it’s extraordinarily difficult to deprogram all that stuff that you’ve inadvertently learned about relationships, environments, in the way that the world is and the way that your life is and the way that you see yourself.”
“It’s also literally about a creature who is raised in a lab environment and is exiled from that lab,” adds Stevens. “[The creature] has to figure out how to live their life and figure out how to make connections and understand other people and to have been looking at the world as if it is a lab experiment so far.” During the show, this creature convinces older women that he is their son, and tension boils later in the plot during a dinner party between the protagonist, his girlfriend, and an older couple. “It sort of almost comes to a head,” describes Stevens. “You’re praying for anything to break because the father thinks that the creature is a co-worker of the mother. He doesn’t know that she’s secretly his son, even though he’s not and so there’s this network of lies that’s going on and different people know or believe different things. And if just one person just said anything different, this whole house of cards essentially topples and someone breaks this cycle of deception.” Go out and see Blue Heart during the first week of March!
Reed’s mainstage production The Last Croissant — a clown tragedy — is directed by professor Barbie Wu and assisted by junior theater major Jody Read, helping them prepare for bigger ventures senior year. The show explores gender roles, relationships, and expectations within those relationships. Set in a campsite, the show follows a few pairs of people trying to negotiate what they mean to each other. By finding the “extraordinary in the mundane,” both Wu and Read hope audiences will see the beauty in the strangeness of the show and the absurdity of existence in this more light-hearted play. “I really wanted to focus on a play that brings joy to students,” says Wu. “Hopefully they agree, too.”
“I’m excited to explore the weirdness that’s coming out of [theater],” says Read. “I think the weirdness of theater is one of my favorite aspects of it.”
Wu goes on to explain, “I feel like every successful dramatic writing has a tipping point in shows where these people are facing some sort of tipping point in their lives and there is going to be a chemical reaction where they’re no longer the same afterward. I’m hoping that there will also be a chemical reaction in the room and maybe a part of them are altered.”
By Asta Rossi