Play brings actor-audience interactions

Kalyn Hayslett, Verge Reporter

Kevin Hall | The Daily Eastern News  Anne Thibault, an actress in the play Good Person of Setzuan, portrays one of the main characters, Shen Te, in rehearshal at The Doudna Fine Arts Center Tuesday in the Black Box Theater.
Kevin Hall | The Daily Eastern News
Anne Thibault, an actress in the play Good Person of Setzuan, portrays one of the main characters, Shen Te, in rehearshal at The Doudna Fine Arts Center Tuesday in the Black Box Theater.

The “Good Person of Setzuan” theatre performance will break the barrier between the audience and the actors, creating an environment of dialogue and interaction at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

The last theatre arts production of the year culminates all of the efforts throughout this year’s season and distinguishes itself by putting the pressure on the audience to actively participate.

German playwright Bertolt Brecht is known for his in-your-face work that uses constant engagement with the audience to ignite them to change the world director Zachary Ross said.

“So much of his plays is about that direct communication between the actors and the audience,” Ross said. “Some of the actors will look you right in the eye and have a conversation with you so the black box makes it feel much more immediate and much more important.”

The Black Box theatre allows the director to rearrange the stage so it is tailored to what is best for the play, however, this not a simple task.

“It gives you more work because it gives you more to think about. How are you going to build the set and how are they going to be mutually engaging,” Dan Crews, director of patron services, said. “Although the Black Box is a smaller space, it is no way less work.”

Being incorporated in the script and being provoked to think is different not only for audience members but for the actors to have those skills to illicit that response.

Lead role Anne Thibault, assistant professor of acting, said even with years of performing experience she still faces challenges of directly acting with the audience because it requires a whole new level of skill and technique.

“It is a challenge as an actor to really look into an audience member’s eyes because it does create an intimacy that we do not create in the naturalistic theatre,” Thibault said.

It is impossible to practice with all of the audience members before the performance so they use different methods to build their preparation.

“Part of it is imagination work during rehearsal, but we have stage managers, assistant stage managers and a great stage crew of students who have been working with us,” Thibault said. “So we use them in rehearsal to make sure we have that interaction.”

Brecht’s play, the Good Person of Setzuan, was translated by Tony Kushner in an effort to modernize the text and keep it relevant for today’s audience.

So the play will address the areas of materialism, greed and how today’s society defines morality.

We like to believe that we live in a black and white world: this is right, this is wrong, this good, this bad but, really all of us live in this grey area,” Crews said. “We have those moments where we question if we handled that situation morally or did we lose our integrity by our actions.”

Audience members will examine themselves and the world around them to determine a course of action.

“The authors didn’t want to necessarily leave them with a final answer but wanted to make the people think about how they can take responsibility and make their own changes,” Ross said.

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]