2018 Fall Theatre Preview
UMD’s Theatre department has three productions this semester all ranging in different genres.
The first production set to play Oct. 11 to 13 and 17 to 20 and on Oct. 14 is “Dear Finder 2018,” a play documenting events of the Holocaust. “Dear Finder” was first written and performed in 1998 by director Tom Isbell and seven other students. This will be the third time Isbell has done this show.
Being a Holocaust production, the students are met with challenges when putting themselves in their characters mindsets.
“It's challenging because there’s dirt on stage...and even more, so the emotional challenge,” Isbell said. “Allowing themselves to try to experience some of what happened to people in the Holocaust, it’s brutal.”
Before rehearsals started, the students had to deal with learning and experiencing what victims of the Holocaust went through.
“20 years ago, the first time we did it, we all kind of surprised ourselves throughout, that ‘oh this is really tough,’” Isbell said. “I think what ended up happening just on its own was the students learned to take care of each other, very quickly.”
The research Isbell did came from numerous books and documents from the Jewish Community Relations Council. As I sat in his office, he pointed to a four-foot stack of bins next to me, they were filled with books on the Holocaust.
“20 years ago, I got permission from some organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council in the Twin Cities, to use some of their oral histories in the play,” Isbell said. “There was no shortage of stories that are worth telling.”
Remembering that the Holocaust happened and the extreme events that occured was a reason for this production. Isbell pointed out a New York Times article that finds adults, and millennials especially, are uneducated on the facts of the Holocaust, with 41 percent of adults not knowing what Auschwitz is.
“I want [audience members] to learn about the Holocaust, the [article] was a reminder that we do need to keep learning about it” Isbell said. “And to make sure we apply this lesson to any future Holocaust, to current hate crimes and genocides.”
“We are very good at making ‘others’ out of other people different from ourselves,” Isbell said. “So maybe in a small way this play is a reminder of this side of our nature that we need to address.”
From directing this play again Isbell has noticed similarities in today's world with the Holocaust.
“It’s just easier to see the similarities of events that are happening in the world that mirror or echo what happened back in the 1930’s and 40’s,” Isbell said. “That’s as depressing and sobering as anything.”
While the events portrayed can be depressing and bring down the audience, the bright side is that the Holocaust isn't being forgotten.
“We try and find some hope and the only hope that I can come out with is the fact that these young people are willing to tell the story and put themselves into it both as actors and designers,” Isbell said.
A decision with this production Isbell made was to include a new subplot.
“I put in a whole new subplot that wasn't there originally and its the subplot as a character as a playwright being interviewed and him dealing with this, in terms of, ‘why so we still need to tell this story,” Isbell said.
“We had all these knee-jerk reactions to the Holocaust and I wanted a character to kind of acknowledge that, so he's in the present tense,” Isbell said. “In a sense he's the eyes that we see the play through.”
Coming up Nov. 8 to Nov. 17 is “Significant Other” a play directed by Ann Bergeron about finding love and battling the feelings we have when friends find it before us.
“For me, the core of the show is about friendship, it's super relatable, particularly to young people,” Bergeron said. “It's relevant to any young person who takes that cross over from college life into professional life.”
The story follows three women and one gay man named Jordan who are best friends throughout college. After they graduate and drift apart into their separate lives, one by one they start to find their significant other except for Jordan who struggles with finding a partner and escaping his loneliness.
“We all go through that place or time in our lives when we are feeling particularly lonely,” Bergeron said. “Even with all these people around us and our core group of friends, especially when they start breaking off.”
Bergeron described this pressure to find a significant other as a problem that our Western culture forces on young people.
“This whole situation, of finding our significant other is very much a first world problem. These young people are wealthy, they all have good jobs, they have food and a nice place,” Bergeron said. “And yet they’re stressed out, they’re constantly stressed out about this thing.”
Bergeron blames part of the high amount of depression in the U.S. on this idea.
“We imposed this thing on ourselves that we’re not fulfilled or we’re not complete until we have that storybook ending,” Bergeron said. “It's kinda really sad because so much of loneliness and depression are kinda being established by the culture.”
Another vital part of this story is how constant use of technology affects our relationships. Bergeron explained one scene where one character becomes obsessed with whether he should hit send or not and then worries what response he will get and how long it may take.
“[Technology] is just another layer that imposes itself on our relationships. It's no longer the phone call or face to face,” Bergeron said. “It's now how technology has infused itself on the pressure and stresses of our personal relationships.”
With all these hardships that the characters go through and realizing technology's effect on our relationships, a dark tone is prevalent yet it still has room for humor.
“It is kinda dark, it's a dark comedy, but it's wildly funny too because these people are very real and you really learn to love them,” Bergeron said. “There are moments when it's really funny but ultimately there is a darkness about it because of the main characters loneliness.”
The final show of the semester, playing Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, is “Dance Works” directed by Rebecca Harwood. This show relies heavily on the creativity of students and the dances they bring with them.
“This concert is another mixed bill evening and this one is totally wide open,” Harwood said. “This year there is no theme it's about whatever students were interested in working on in terms of making choreography.”
With different preferences of dance styles, the audience can expect to see a souffle of dance genres.
“There will definitely be pieces that will be more modern,” Harwood said. “There will be at least two tap pieces, several jazz pieces, and at least one leaning towards a ballet contemporary.”
Even with all these dances styles in one show, it isn't too hectic for Harwood.
“For me it's not [challenging] because...as the artistic director, I think I have just seen so much dance and I've seen so many variety and mixed bill evenings over the years that I’m able to wrap my head around the idea of all these styles coexisting,” Harwood said.
Harwood describes having all these various forms of dance resheshing and hard to get bored of.
“It's exciting, it's refreshing,” Harwood said. “My hope for the audience is that it's not challenging or difficult but it's an opportunity.”
The concert will be having guest groups coming to give their unique dances to the show. Currently, Harwood is in the process of recruiting groups to perform.
“The goal is that we will be having one maybe two guest groups from around campus joining us,” Harwood said. “As part of celebrating dance and putting the focus on student work is showing what's going on around campus and not just in our program.”
The idea of having groups come in to perform is a new idea one that started the last time “Dance Works” was performed in 2015.
“We had African dancers, we had funk soul patrol come in. And dancers from the APAA (Asian Pacific American Student Association),” Harwood said.
Tickets for UMD students range from five to eight dollars. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the theater’s website.