“Arcadia” in the amphitheater: Stoppard’s popular play comes to Swat

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.

Among the many theatrical productions underway for the spring semester is a production of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia.” Produced by Aaron Hollander ’07 and co-directed by Micaela Baranello ’07 and Nora Nussbaum ’08, auditions for this play will be held on Thursday and Friday in Kohlberg and Trotter.

“Please start praying tonight to the god or goddess of your choice for good weather on April 21-22,” entreats Baranello, as they have slated these dates for the production to be set in the amphitheater. The setting is not only beautiful, it dovetails beautifully with the subjects of the play, including a debate over the aesthetic ideals of the sculpted Classical and naturalistic Romantic landscape.

The set cared for, the play is also notably a complex one in terms of props, which will be managed by Heather Reese ’07, and costumes, by Marissa Roque ’10 and Allison McCarthy ’09. Madeleine Laupheimer ’10 will be stage manager and Abigail Agresta ’09 assistant stage manager.

Baranello and Nussbaum have been working on the project since last fall, says Baranello. “While we both like all of Stoppard’s work we feel that ‘Arcadia’ is one of his best for its combination of wonderful language and humor with real characters and what is ultimately a very sad ending.”

Stoppard, also the author of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has recently received attention for the production of the first two parts of his play “The Coast of Utopia” to strong reviews. The first two portions of “The Coast of Utopia,” which Nussbaum and Baranello have seen, are like “Arcadia” in their dramatization of history.

“Arcadia,” a play touching on literature, science, and sex, is set in an English country house and garden splitting between scenes set in the present day and 1809 and surrounding the efforts of modern characters to understand and reconstruct the events of 1809 surrounding the house’s inhabitants: thirteen year old mathematical genius Thomasina, her tutor Septimus, and the failed poet and landscape gardener Ezra Chater.

“It’s very funny when the moderns get it all wrong, and this is a very funny play. But it is also a tragic one, and this structure encapsulates the essentially irrecoverable and unknowable nature of the past,” observes Baranello.

Regarding auditions this week, Baranello encourages all interested to come, regardless of experience: “We think that there are a lot of people on campus who know and love this play, some of whom are not regular participants in Swarthmore theater, so you may see some new faces on stage.”

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