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.
This weekend, Swarthmore is to be treated to an ecclectic smattering of drama productions. On Saturday and Sunday, the Theater Department is presenting the Directing II Workshop’s Night Of Scenes. Scenes from “Mud,” written by Maria Irene Fornes and directed by Lauren Dubowski ’08 of Bryn Mawr, as well as “Tone Clusters,” written Joyce Carol Oates and directed Anne Coleman ’09, will be presented on both days at 7 p.m. in LPAC’s Frear Ensemble Theater. “Merma,” an adaptation of Mori el Merma written by Joan Miro and Joan Baixas and directed by Jackie Vitale ’09, will be staged on Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. on Parrish Beach.
“Mud” is a gritty and wrenching one-act which explores concepts of self-realization against a backdrop of poverty. Dubowski’s production has largely preserved the original script with only a few minor cuts. According to actor Nathaniel Erskine ’10, “Mud” is a “real Tri-Co production” with actors from Swarthmore and Haverford and a director from Bryn Mawr. Although shuttled back and forth between various campuses, all involved with “Mud” have been able to band together and face the challenges of such an intense one-act. In his first college theater performance, Erskine was charged with creating “a character that was not [him]” and divorced from other roles in his musical-heavy past. Dubowski’s great commitment and enthusiasm helped Erskine and the entire cast realize personal goals as well as create a positive drama experience. Says Erskine, “[Dubowski] has made “Mud,” an overwhelming, depressing play, a really fun time for us. That requires great talent.”
“Tone Clusters,” a tragicomedy broken down into nine disjointed segments, centers around a television interview of the parents of a man accused of murder. Coleman, an honors theater major with a double concentration in acting and directing, chose “Tone Clusters” for the way in which it challenges the audience as “television viewers” to decide between “empathy and cruel fascination.” The focus on media and television is particularly timely, in Coleman’s opinion, because of “the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech and the disgusting media frenzy that has accompanied it.” Working on “Tone Clusters” has allowed Coleman to “push [herself] outside of [her] own comfort zone” and to become a more restrained and focused director. Experimenting alongside her dedicated cast, Coleman was able to shape a “truly unusual type of theater.” She believes that the piece will provoke “a necessary and insightful discussion” concerning “media sensationalism as well as…the human condition.”
“Merma” is a pared=down adaptation of the 1978 Spanish play “Mori el Merma” (roughly translated as “Death to the Bogeyman”). Much of the original text of “Mori el Merma” survives in “Merma” but the overall feel of the piece is wholly different. When asked why she chose the piece, Vitale, an honors theater major and member of Drama Board, responded cryptically that she wanted to facilitate the honor of “the great ruler” Merma’s visiting Swarthmore. All who attend will have the “opportunity to receive the blessings of [the] noble Merma, as well as ask him any questions [they] may have concerning life under his rule.” More seriously, Vitale wanted to direct something that “would be… totally different for Swarthmore” and that would challenge her as a director. Although it was difficult to scale down her initial vision, Vitale has thoroughly enjoyed directing “Merma” and working with an “absolutely fantastic…funny and imaginative” cast.
All Night of Scenes’ performances are free and need no reservations. Following each evening performance there will be a reception with the cast and company. Vitale suggests that those who want to see be part of the “grand festivities” Merma’s arrival should go to Magill walk slightly early.