The DU Department of Theatre showcased another group of talented senior theatre majors from May 3-7. After the popularity of Cycle One of the Senior Capstone Festival a few weeks ago, Cycle 2 drew large crowds delighted to see the unique plays that seniors Ashley Campbell, Cassidy Ammerman, Wren Schuyler, Catherine Talbot and Garrett Biggs chose to direct. The five short plays were entrancing, artistic and abstract, educating audiences in just how wonderfully weird theatre can be.
“Seven Jewish Children”
The first play of the Cycle Two performances was “Seven Jewish Children,” written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Campbell. It gave an intense snapshot of those dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict. Featuring DU students Mikah Conway, Annaleisa Friednash, Aristotle Johns, Shelby Lynhall and Mary Grace Roach, the characters wove a complex emotional journey with little linear narrative. The power came from the dialogue, where every single line began with either the phrase “Tell her…” or “Don’t tell her…” The audience slowly gathers that they speak of a child, wondering how much is too much or not enough to share about war, death, religion and other complicated concepts.
Every step was choreographed with precision, and the use of simple costumes and visual projection was powerful. However, the play did not feel long enough in reference to the subject matter of the play. It seems impossible to cover the conflicts of Israel and Palestine in one short play; it felt like a strange choice for a capstone play. The discussion lends itself to deep thoughts of an incredibly divisive issue, so tackling that in less than 20 minutes felt odd. Overall, though, the production as a whole was well done, and the abstract portrayal of a very real issue held a great deal of emotional impact.
Leaving the world of “Seven Jewish Children” and entering a John Patrick Shanley play, one may think that a refreshing dose of realism is in store. However, although “French Waitress” begins very naturally, the show quickly progresses into the surreal. Ammerman directed students Erik Frederiksen, Grady Hicks and Katie Walker in this production depicting a man caught between dream and reality. Frederiksen’s character begins at a restaurant with his wife, and as they sit and bicker, the French waitress serving them makes the situation stranger and stranger, until the audience cannot distinguish the real from the imaginary.
This play was quite a journey, and it was very well acted. Shanley’s humor shone through beautifully, while the audience still felt the emotions and depth of the play. It also did not feel like the greatest choice for a capstone play, but it worked out well. People left the theatre confused yet pleased by the narrative, and it certainly evoked some questions of life, love and reality.
While the first play in the set felt rehearsed and precise, it was no match for “RJOH,” a devised piece directed by Schuyler. Devised productions are incredibly movement based, much like an interpretive or expressive dance routine. “RJOH” (meant to signify Romeo, Juliet, Ophelia and Hamlet from Shakespeare’s famous works “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet”) was inspired by Shakespeare and focused on the relationships between the genderbent couples, as well as how they may interact with the couple from the opposite play. It featured the talents of Lois Shih, Meagan Traver, Anna Walsh and Tristan Andersen.
“RJOH” was probably the most aesthetically pleasing play of the night, with a simple set in the White Box Theatre, wonderful music and lovely costumes. The movements were full of passion, and the story was communicated to the audience almost entirely without dialogue, allowing viewers to sit back and enjoy the other elements of the production. Again, the play was peculiar and very out-of-the-box, but the expressive freedom of it was refreshing and impressive to witness.
Just as in Cycle One, Cycle Two showcased a one-actor play. Talbot directed “The Kappa,” written by DU student Aaron Dupuis, and the whole show consisted of a monologue from one actor, Drew Harrilchak, who played a kappa. Kappas are mythical creatures from Japanese folklore who reside mostly in bodies of water. Their heads have a bowl shape on top to hold water, and as long as the water does not spill, the kappa lives similarly to a man. In Dupuis’s play, the kappa tells the audience his story—one of love and loss—until at a heartbreaking end he lets the water empty from his head.
This play was a favorite of the set, as even though it was simply one character sharing a story, it was beautifully crafted and very emotional. The lighting design was especially noteworthy in the production, and the audience barely dared move in fear of missing even a word of the kappa’s story. It also, oddly enough, felt like the most coherent and traditional out of all the other plays, and it was clearly enjoyed by all.
The final production of Cycle Two was a Suzan-Lori Parks play directed by Biggs. “365” was another unconventional production that included Anthony Adu, Rebeka Betemedhin, Kevin Douglas, Tamarra Nelson, Samuel Pierce III and Jack Trembath as performers. The play was inspired by Parks’s self-assigned task of writing one play everyday for 365 days. It was a collection of short, seemingly unrelated scenes that portrayed many aspects of life and what lies beyond it. It was rather indescribable, but the twisted sense of narrative did not at all detract from the enjoyable sensory overload of the production.
To watch, “365” is an unparalleled experience. Because the show calls for certain levels of improvisation, some of which is inspired by current events and daily life, one could essentially watch the play an infinite amount of times and have a different experience each time, which is a pretty fascinating concept. Another key part of this production was the use of visual projection on the wall of the theatre. Stunning, loud and colorful compilations of videos, newsreels, chapter titles, historic images and other oddities played between scenes. The show was well-crafted, funny and enjoyable overall, and it was a good ending to a string of eccentric and abstract plays.
The last cycle of the DU Department of Theatre Senior Capstone Festival runs from May 24-28.