Friday, Dec. 5 kicks off a weekend full of theater and arts productions at Vassar. Beginning at 7 p.m. in the Kenyon Club Room, it will also launch the weekend of performances for Unbound’s fall play, “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” The director, Talia Feldberg ’16, wrote in an emailed statement about her choice to stage the play, “Over the summer, I was looking for a play to direct this semester and my research turned ‘Rappaccini’ up. The next day I went to the library, read it, and knew it was the right play.”
As to what specifically moved her about this particular play, Feldberg wrote, “The beautiful language and really vivid re-imagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s strange, gothic story [drew me to the material].” Colby Byrne ’18 also commented on the same aspects which inspired Feldberg to direct “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” “…It’s been different from my past theatrical experiences because the show is a straight play that relies heavily on movement and very expressive language/narration,” he wrote in an emailed statement.
What sets this play apart from the others this fall is the choreographed movement aspect of it. Byrne wrote, “I’m most excited for the audience to experience Rappaccini’s garden (which is played by actual people) and the intimate nature of the play… My favorite parts of the show are the various movement sections of the play where the messengers interact with each other and the audience.”
Feldberg as well commented on this novel characteristic of the show, “This is the first time I’ve done a movement-heavy piece and worked with a choreographer (we actually have two), and it’s been a really positive and helpful experience.” Especially for a student-directed project, the production is ambitious. Its relatively large scale, however, proved one of the more difficult aspects for its actors and creator. “Kenyon Club Room is a great space, but it definitely [has] challenges. Scheduling a cast of 11 is also very hard, but that has less my challenge than that of my wonderful stage manager, Bethan Johnson [’15,]” wrote Feldberg.
An actor in “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Elizabeth Fetterolf ’17, found the specific demands of the part to be demanding given what she feels to be her natural limitations. “Probably the movement sequences [were the biggest challenge of acting in the play] since I don’t have any kind of a dance/movement background and am a little bit of a klutz,” said Fetterolf via email.
Feldberg attributes her ability to conceive and help create such an offbeat and ambitious project, which includes an innovative use of movement, to the varied and deep selection of classes Vassar offers. She wrote, “I’m a drama major, which means I’ve taken a variety of classes related to theatre. I’ve had really great experiences in some collaborative, pretty multidisciplinary classes in that department, and I think that work has influenced my directing,”
Like the director’s past experiences at VC, as a freshman and cast member, Byrne saw the production as a chance to broaden his horizons in the realm of theater. “I auditioned for this show originally because I was very involved in theatre throughout my four years in high school and I knew I wanted to be a part of student theatre here at Vassar and ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ sounded like a pretty different kind show from the ones I’ve performed in in the past/a fun time,” wrote Byrne.
The drive to make “Rappaccini’s Daughter” came from the most basic artistic desire: to spin a great yarn for the audience to enjoy. “I’m always trying to get better at making theatre, and I like to hope I have. I do theatre because I like to tell stories and I just want to tell this one the best way I can,” wrote Feldberg