Last month’s “Kimberly Akimbo” left the audience wondering what is next for the Theatre Department and the Staller Center. After the somber tone of the story of the girl who ages faster than most, the department aims to bring a new noise to the Staller Center: laughter.
The department’s next performance, “The Liar,” premiers on Nov. 14 at 8 p.m., and runs until Nov. 24 in the Staller Center’s Theatre One. The play is based on a classic French play from 1644 written by Pierre Corneille, but was adapted to have a more comedic tone by David Ives in 2010.
“We chose to perform Ives’ version because it is a very welcome transition from our previous work,” Deborah Mayo, director of “The Liar,” said. “It is very funny, and offers something for everyone as it pokes fun at a lot of things in todays culture.”
“The Liar” follows the titular character whose entire existence revolves around his ability to spin a tale and manipulate others to get what he what he wants. As the play progresses, all of his lies start to catch up to him and the web of tales quickly begin to fall apart.
“Because it is a comedy, we want to really emphasize the interactions between the characters and the set, almost giving a cartoon like feeling to the performance,” Mayo said.
One of the biggest changes from previous productions comes from the set and costume design. Since the play is set during the 17th century, most of the costumes are being hand designed by Peggy Morin, who has worked on previous theatre performances for the department. The play is rooted during this time period, but the dialogue and actions are adapted to fit modern day culture and society better. One example is the characters stopping mid-sentence to perform a overly complicated and unnecessarily long handshake.
The desire to perform a period piece came from the need to make something vastly different from “Kimberly Akimbo.” To that degree, “The Liar” and “Kimberly Akimbo” share only one returning actor. Previous performers have taken production or behind the scenes roles, and all of the main actors are new students who simply auditioned for the roles. Most of them are just discovering the text for the first time.
“It is so different compared to Kimberly in every way,” Sara DeNatalie, stage manager for “The Liar,” said “Since it is a comedy timing your delivery and movement is much more important.”
The department goal for this performance is to engage the audience directly and have the crowd get involved with the play. A character that calls out to specific audience members and talks about them directly performs the opening curtain speech.
Another way is to focus on common themes found throughout the college environment, allowing for students to relate better with the characters. While “Kimberly Akimbo” focused more on the idea of growing up, “The Liar” focuses on self-discovery, the pursuit of truth and the predicaments that arise when someone is in love. All of which are tied into the individual character arcs throughout the play.
“When you look at the play it will probably sound pretty simple, but there are a lot of different layers within the story that I think really are going to pop out and surprise people,” Steve Marsh, director of graduate studies for the Theatre Department, said.
One of the things that the crew is worried about is that the play is written in verse, which many fear will turn away some viewers. The decision to keep the script in verse came from the desire to honor the work of David Ives.
Production for the play started almost immediatly after “Kimberly Akimbo” finished last month. Since then the crew has been working hard to cast the crew, build the set and practice the stagecraft for the upcoming performance.
“We have been practicing hard to get every single movement down perfectly so once the curtain rises, the play does not stop,” DeNatalie said.
Last semester the student run production was of “Hamlet,” which is a major change in term of tone and theme. It has allowed the cast to break out of their comfort zone within drama and really try something new in terms of acting roles.
“Putting on a play is hard work,” Mayo said. “Our cast and crew are really working hard, and we want to challenge ourselves to put on the best possible performance of this great story that we possibly can.”