The Department of Theater and Dance recently closed its 2017-18 “Season of Discontent” with a host of offerings responding to social and political unrest around the globe.
“We chose a season of contemporary and historical plays that would serve to remind our audiences that humanity always has and always will be challenged with difficult choices and moral dilemmas,” said Patricia Culbert, senior artist in residence and acting chair, winter and spring terms.
In the fall, Chair William Finlay directed “The Hunchback of Seville” by Charise Castro-Smith, a biting, humorous indictment of religious fundamentalism, anti-immigrant sentiments and the limitations of a myopic nationalistic viewpoint. It was set during the 15th century Spanish Inquisition but delivered in today’s American speech and imagery.
Winter term offerings took audiences back to ancient Greece with an updated version of the Antigone myth in Anne Carson’s poetic drama, “Antigonick.” Directed by Culbert, this play measured one young girl’s resistance to immorality in a raw and emotionally distilled conflict between human authority and “higher” laws. Discussions in English, theater and First-Year Preceptorial classes served to make academic connections to readings and course themes and inspired newcomers to attend performances.
With “Antigonick,” the department also inaugurated a “talk-back” series of post-show discussions moderated by department dramaturg Dan Venning, assistant professor of theater. Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Kassandra Miller shared her response to Carson’s play with in-depth knowledge of the original Sophoclean drama.
Rounding out the season, under the direction of guest artist Marcus Dean Fuller, was a new translation of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 classic, “An Enemy of the People,” showcasing a dynamic conflict in family and community relationships.
In a talk-back between Fuller and guest Paul Walsh, the Yale University Professor in the Practice of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism (whose translation was used), an audience of students and local community members discussed the challenges of translating language, culture and the power of Ibsen’s social ideas in today’s world.
In summing up the season, Culbert noted the protagonist’s advice to the players in Act III Scene 2 of “Hamlet”:“…the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”
The department is, she said, “proud to hold up the mirror, to advance an understanding of the role of the arts in comprehending our world and expressing our deepest responses to global issues confronting our communities.”