One of the wonderful things about the fall season is the theater productions presented by Vassar’s Drama Department. Produced and acted by students, three shows are in the pipeline, and they promise to be profound, cutting-edge and thrilling. Without further fanfare, here is what will be coming to Vassar this fall: “Revolt. She Said, Revolt Again.,” “The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds” and “Drums in the Night.”
Oct. 25, 26 and 27 will feature “Revolt. She Said, Revolt Again.” The play was written by Alice Birch and will be directed by Miranda Cornell ’19. It will also be the senior project of directors Samantha Leftt and Kaitlin Prado. The production will take place in the Powerhouse Theater and is sponsored in part by the E.J. Safirstein ’83 Memorial Fund.
The second production, running from Nov. 15 to 17, is “The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds,” written by Paul Zindel. This play will be directed by Lily Berman ’19 and will be worked on by directors Katie Scibelli, Jake Shepherd and Yael Haskal as their senior projects. The production will also take place in the Powerhouse Theater.
The final drama for the fall season is the play “Drums in the Night” by renowned German playwright Bertolt Brecht. This production will be staged in the Martel Theater in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film from Dec. 6 to 8, and will be directed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama Darrell James. The work is based, in part, on the translation by Finegan Kruckemeyer. It is the senior project for Kevin Johnson, Sydney Lee, Philip Macaluso, Wesley Sheffield and Nic Penn.
“Revolt. She Said, Revolt Again.” is sure to be anything but typical. Structured around a series of vignettes, the play asks us how we would revolutionize language, relationships and life in general. While this production is, rule-breaking and energetic, it isn’t a manifesto; rather, it is a depiction. Playwright Alice Birch sets out with the aim of portraying the reality of the world as it truly is, and she molds this seemingly simple concept into something worthwhile. The play is known to be very intense, catching the light of the world through a magnifying glass and sparking a searing, bright fire.
The idea behind this production is comparable to those presented on screen in Sam Esmail’s wonderful TV-show “Mr. Robot.” Both artistic pieces ostensibly deal with the idea of revolution, but their energy and life come from their depictions of a world so accurate that—paradoxically—they feel unreal. In a day and age when the iconography of revolution is routinely picked up for more mundane ends, it is always refreshing to see reminders of just how truly earth-shattering a revolution is when examined in the field of art.
The season’s second production, “The Effects of Gamma Ray on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds,” is an imagining of an older play: Penned by Paul Zindel, it first premiered in the mid-1960s. The show focuses on a dysfunctional family run by mother Beatrice Hunsdorfer and her children, Tillie and Ruth.
The play intends to be a gut-wrenching one, as the plot focuses on Beatrice’s constant attempts to dismantle the successes and inspirations of her daughters. The two children band together to find what comfort they can as they mount resistance against their mother.
While the work will be powerful and affecting, it will not be hopeless. When asked about the play and its characters, director Lily Berman opined on the character of Tillie: “Tillie maintains a hopeful view of her world and the people in it.” The play is not one about the destruction of family life but rather an exploration of the creation of hope. Even the title reinforces this, as it engenders the idea that the plants are growing and life is created—but they are affected by the world around them.
The final production of this season, “Drums in the Night,” looks to be a play that, while not lacking artistic depth, does seem to have an added technical flourish thrown in for good measure. The play follows Anna Balicke as she struggles to maintain her passion for her lover Andreas, a soldier who goes missing in the midst of World War I. Also by no means a simple play, this production is based on four different translations. It also has a complex technical aspect that indicates it will be worth admission for the spectacle alone. Penn commented in an emailed statement on this unique facet: “I would say the technical work is a huge part of the production (and in Brecht’s work in general), and our production will be doing some wonderful avant-garde things (‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ is a major inspiration).”
Much of this technical prowess can be credited to James. Lee elucidated, “Darrell James has crazy ideas,” and explained that James always directs productions that combine spectacle with artistic depth. However, both Lee and Penn stressed that the play, bereft of the technical aspect, would still be worth the price of admission (or time spent in the theater).
As with all of the other productions this fall season, “Drums in the Night” strives to tell an intensely human narrative—one that, when placed on stage, intends to pull at the heartstrings of those in attendance. Indeed, each of these plays will be felt for many days to come.