FINE ARTS COLUMNIST
Understandably, most seem to believe that when they go to watch any sort of play being performed that it is those on the stage who are exposed, but the truth is rather that the actors are vulnerable and you, the audience member, are the one being truly revealed. I’ve explained this many times in previous columns, but what is the true purpose of theatre in the realm of fine arts? Its calling is to reveal something about the world in which that audience lives in. And playwrights do this in various ways.
Some playwrights prefer to write works that pinpoint an issue within their society alone for the hope that the audience will walk away wanting to change it, does change it, and thus their play eventually becomes less relevant to future audiences. Such playwrights are perfectly fine with that. For them, if that issue is fixed, they did their job and in a most unique way. Others wish for their art to last throughout the ages. You could think of Shakespeare as an obvious and well-known example. We don’t just study his works so highly because they are well-written (though they are indeed), but also because they have lasting messages that need to be told time and time again.
This is why some playwrights or specific pieces get resurrected either often or after a certain number of years. Whatever message is being conveyed, the director clearly feels that his or her intended audience needs to get a good slap in the face with said idea. That is something I wish more and more people would know and could ponder on going into any play they see. I can assure you that whether it is a comedy or a tragedy, if it is fine art, then it will have a message that the director is trying to convey to you. Sure, comedy allows you to laugh at yourself in the process (though you may not realize it), but you need a little bit of both.
Here it comes, my official plug for our upcoming main-stage here in the Anathan Theatre. After three semesters of gut-busting comedies, the main-stage this semester that opens on March 30, “The Elephant Man,” will hopefully shake this Franciscan University audience. Of course I will not tell you the message of this play—you need to watch it for yourself and gather your own thoughts on it. That said, I can tell you that being a part of such a dramatic piece has challenged and moved me in more ways than one.
Obviously as an actress I have had my share of challenges, especially with a character as crazy (for dark reasons) as mine. However, since I also had the privilege of being a tiny part of the design concept in my design class last semester, this play has shaken me at my core as a human being. My biggest hope is that our Franciscan University audience will be deeply moved and honestly even a tad frightened of themselves because this play will truly implement what Shakespeare did in “holding the mirror up to nature,” as it were.
No piece is chosen or taken lightly here in our Theatre Department at the university. Keep that in mind as you come and see it. Have an open mind. And the same can be said for the senior-directed one-act pieces that will follow just a couple weeks after the end of “The Elephant Man.” The one-acts “Salome” and “The Insanity of Mary Gerard” are two short pieces that also will probably make you feel a bit disturbed, but hopefully for the better.
This is our purpose here at the Anathan Theatre of the Franciscan Theatre Program, to make our intended audience look at themselves and see what needs to change. Let’s be honest: We can all grow in some way or another. Why not be exposed to the idea through a unique (and in my opinion, entertaining) way?