Heddatron at Lafayette College

Tonight I went to see Heddatron at Lafayette College.

It’s the third weekend in a row the teenager and I went to the theater and this was by far the teen’s favorite.

Last weekend we went to see a high school production of Once Upon a Mattress, discussed here: I blame the Freddies and the weekend before that we partook in Tartuffe at DeSales University, reviewed here: Tartuffe at DeSales.

Our finance manager at the office invited us to the show since her husband is technical director of the college theatre. He pitched this show to the head of the theatre program (who, when I worked at the college more than 20 years ago was the entire theatre department, my how times have changed). And my colleague’s husband also co-taught a theatre/mechanical engineering class last fall that built the robots for this show.

Yes, Robots.

First, let me say, before getting into some of the eclectic contemporary joy of this show, that Buck Hall has a charming array of theaters to work in.

I love the challenges and the flexibility of a Black Box Theater. Most of my days in college theater happened in a black box, and the difference between performing on a traditional proscenium stage and a black box is an extreme shift in perspective and intimacy.

Performers on a proscenium stage remain above, untouched and superior to the audience; whereas in a black box, the actors and the audience engage and entwine in unspoken ways that change the performance and its meaning.

So my heart always races when I enter a black box. It’s a test of strength for the entire theatre company.

Loosely summarized, this play presents us with a pregnant housewife who is kidnapped by robots, transported to the rainforest and forced to perform Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.

The acting was solid, though in some sections in became difficult to hear the actors overhead.

The set design and use of props proved vivid and entertaining. Perhaps what impressed me most was the fluidity of scene changes and prop switches that happened right under the audience’s nose.

The robots were sci-fi rich yet silly, one made from a mannequin (and he of course talked about the size of his penile shaft), another made of a garbage can and a Rubbermaid cooler with salad tongs for arms. Three others appeared, one loosely comprised of an ironing board, another a broom.

The director’s notes refer to the multimedia and STEM nature of this piece. And indeed, the show made use of video, music and robotics. Futuristic yet in the past and present all in the same time.

And for pure comic relief, the cast performed Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.

I know a show is good when my brain stops analyzing and just has a good time. That happened to me in this show, right around the Bonnie Tyler sing-along.

But, being me, I must keep dwelling on themes. Even though the video clips ask us to consider if we’ve sexually assaulted our toasters over the years (inserting our bread into its cavities for years for nothing but our own pleasure) and if the robots will wake up to our abuses, the actors seem to be asking us to examine the place of women and also to examine our commitments and relationships— has humanity evolved at all in the last 150 years? Or will the robots do it first?

After the show, the teenager and I took photos outside Buck Hall.

Tartuffe at DeSales

Last night, I attended the audio-described performance of Tartuffe at DeSales University last night. The teenager and my blind friend, Nancy, accompanied me.

Act I Productions always does a fantastic job and at this point, I know the staff almost as well as Nancy. (I wrote more about this yesterday, Tartuffe tonight.)

I was technically an English Literature and Language major in college for my first bachelors degree, but probably three-quarters of my degree was actually theatre classes as “Doc” Jack Ramsey was my favorite professor and I was active in the theatre company. I was also technically a French minor, but I was only one class shy of a double major. About a decade after I graduated, I did take an additional French class at my alma mater (Moravian College) and several more at Lafayette College when I earned my second bachelors in International Affairs.

That’s a long-winded way to say I’m a huge nerd who has studied Moliere.

DeSales University has a great theatre department offering majors in various forms of performing arts, so their shows are always top notch.

They offer one performance of every major production as an audio described show for the visually impaired. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this is a great way to include everyone in theatre.

I also provided my companions with a mini-lesson in farce versus comedy, where farce is quicker paced, has more characters entering and exit, and includes more physical humor than mere comedy.

Additionally we discussed Moliere and 17th Century Drama in general. This particular play is almost 400-years-old. It tackles heavy themes, philosophizing about religion and God (or perhaps religion versus pure spiritual intentions), gullibility, and how to change someone’s mind when they can’t see the truth.

Moliere is only slightly more modern than Shakespeare and, and this is totally my opinion, I find the French drama more accessible, funnier and more sexually-charged than Shakespeare’s canon.

The basic premise, and one that angered the Roman Catholic Church, is that a wealthy man invites a beggar into his home. The beggar, Tartuffe, has demonstrated piety that has impressed the master of the house. Tartuffe then tries to win over the master’s goods and family, and almost succeeds. The family would have been left in ruins, if not for a convenient intervention of the king, which of course, was Moliere’s way of keeping in the good graces of the crown.

The production at DeSales included a brilliant set, the paint hues of the set walls shifted colors based at the lighting. They created the illusion of a huge estate house on a small stage with an amazing display of perspective. They designed a set with six doors, about twelve stairs and three levels in a comparatively small space.

I only noticed maybe two line mix-ups. Acting was solid. I’m starting to recognize some of the actors. I think the daughter and the stepmother might have been my favorite.

I thoroughly liked the translation. It maintained much of the original rhyme without sounding forced in English. And some of the word choice was very rich. I very much enjoyed the vocabulary.

The costumes deliberately code the characters. The daughter and her suitor, as young and naive lovers, wear pink and pale blue. The stepmother wears an elaborate gown of pale blue and a light turquoise. The father wears various shades of blue and purple, but the hot-headed son wears vivid orange.

The religious themes, and the theme of being suckered in and acting stupid, still hold true today. I feel like the American political climate also seems like a “Tartuffe” story.

To purchase tickets: DeSales Calendar: Tartuffe. Show runs next weekend as well.

Tartuffe tonight

Lots of Sunshine

I’m very excited about going to see Tartuffe at DeSales University tonight. They have a strong college theatre program. They offer a program for visually and hearing impaired theatre-goers so my teenager and I attend with our blind friend, Nancy.

The program is a great way to expand my daughter’s horizons as they select great plays and adapt the presentation for other-abled patrons.

For the blind attendees, the cast comes out to introduce themselves. The staff pass out props and discuss how the stage is set.

As someone with a theatre background, it’s an exciting way to connect the experience of the viewer with the technical and magical side of how theatre works.

Some of the shows we’ve seen there:

  • Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
  • Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard
  • Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie
  • Evita

This morning, the teenager is with her dad and I’m doing some household chores. I took down my bedroom curtains and washed the windows. In a few minutes, I’ll be retrieving the curtains from the laundry and hanging them up to dry.

Today’s big adventure might be trimming Nala’s nails.