Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The “Stanislavski System” is a popular theatre style in Western theatre productions. By this system, actors and actresses must discover their authentic “emotional belief” rather than play the textual role of their respective characters. For the second consecutive night, four Tri-College groups of theatre students will strive to exhibit this style in the Frear Ensemble Theatre; the event will take place at 8:00 p.m. tonight
“It’s a style of realism, but here is a paradox that exists in this style of theatre, Real life behavior belies itself,” Professor Allen Kuharski told the Gazette.
This Night of Scenes begins with Tennessee Williams’ “Hello From Bertha,” directed by Anne Kolker ’08. Bertha, a bedridden woman afflicted by numerous ailments of the body, heart, and mind, finds herself at the nadir of her existence, and moments away from living on the streets.
Anne Coleman ’09 plays Bertha. In a frantic argument between Bertha and Goldie (Natalie Bowlus ’08), Coleman and Bowlus experiment with their own emotions and interpretations to convey the dialogue of their respective characters. The audience sits in a “thrust,” on three sides of the stage, challenging the actors to engage the viewers from all angles.
“The real goal for actors is to get feedback. We want to hear feedback on our technique and approach and get evaluated. It really helps our development. We are trying to find a new level of realism. We work with a thrust because there is no need to cheat the audience. [The style] is a sophisticated level of realism,” Coleman said.
Students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr contributed to the production as directors, actors, actress, and light directors. Brendan Wattenberg ’06 from Haverford directed Edward Albee’s “Marriage Play,” performed by Caitlin Duffy of Bryn Mawr and Jacob Caroll of Haverford. Duffy and Caroll exhibited the comedic value of the Stanislavski System. Duffy as Gillian and Caroll as Jack play two spouses married for 30 years. Upon returning home from his office, Jack decides to tell Gillian that he is leaving her. However, Gillian makes a mockery of Jack as she attempts to change his mind, with constant allusions to her 30 year-old secret, Gillian’s diary of sexual experiences with Jack.
Director Mikalena Wymer ’08 also chose an Edward Albee piece; an excerpt from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” The characters create a visually stimulating interpretation fusing indifference with passion, lust, and humor.
“The Just Assassins,” directed by Matt Lowe ’06 is composed entirely of Haverford students. Eric Smith plays a radical, Russian Socialist in 1905 named Ivan Kaliayev. Kaliayev is imprisoned for the assassination of the Grand Duke. He is ready to accept his fate – a hanging – until things change when he unexpectedly finds himself eye to eye with the Grand Duchess, Jenny Brindisi, and Skuratov, the cunning Chief of Police, played by Matt Klinman.
“We had a really successful production. This production deals with a complex style of analysis. There is the assumption that the characters aren’t saying what they are actually feeling. It’s a double dimension where the actors try to interpret the identity, impulses, emotions, and motives of the characters without language. Then the actors put it into a recognizable behavior,” Kowalski said.