Plays in preview: monologues, Sondheim and stockings

Fall at Swarthmore offers casts and audiences alike a great variety of dramatic productions and performances to entertain on those crisp evenings. Upcoming shows explore a range of styles and subjects, from Shakespearian vignettes to dramatic monologues.

Rebecca Ahmad performs in last year’s production of the “Vagina Monologues.” (Jakob Mrozewski/The Phoenix)

Lisa Sendrow ’13 is the director for an upcoming production of “The Vagina Monologues,” an episodic play written by Eve Ensler, which was first performed in 1996. Continuing a tradition of annual performances, Sendrow took on the role of director after serving as assistant director in last year’s production of TVM. Described by the director in an email as a depiction of the “experiences of real women [that] proves that all women have different experiences that impact their lives in a variety of ways,” “The Vagina Monologues” consists of a series of dramatic readings focusing on issues of womanhood. Sendrow hopes that by bringing women’s rights to the forefront, it will leave the audience questioning and “make the community members advocate for women” after the curtain falls.

“The Vagina Monologues” will have two showings in the Science Center on February 17 at 7 p.m. and February 18 at 1 p.m.

For fans of musicals and live performances, “Company” offers audiences another option to explore the power and variety of theater. Based on a book by George Furth and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Company” is directed by Jonghee Quispe ’14 with conducting and instrumental direction by Ben Kapilow ’13. “Company” will run for two days, premiering on November 4 at 7 pm on the LPAC mainstage, with performances at 2 and 8 pm Novermber 5.This will be Quispe’s second time working on a Sondheim musical after a successful Tri-College production of “Assassins” in the fall of last year.

“Company,” which was first performed on Broadway in 1970, is set on the 35th birthday of a New York man named Robert. Kapilow described the plot as “a single man [who] realizes that being in a relationship is difficult, but being alone is impossible.”

Quispe adds that while the show’s two central and charged topics, New York City and marriage, are still extremely relevant to today’s audiences, they offer an ambitious challenge to produce in the college theater context.

According to the director, to focus audience attention on the characters, the set design will be minimalist, consisting of a set of large white blocks. The entire stage will be the thrust of LPAC and Quispe adds that “it will be up to lighting and sound design to specify the areas of time and space.”

This production will be Kapilow’s first time conducting a pit band. He wrote in an email that as musical director he hopes to help “the orchestra understand where Sondheim inserted harmonic and textural surprises” into the “deceptive simplicity” of Sondheim’s compositions.

Quispe also added by email, that due to the musical complexity of the play, such as a baritone with a three-octave range and the ability to hold five part harmonies, actors will be challenged to put their theatrical talents to the test.

Also scheduled for this fall is a production by the Yellow Stocking Players, the “Night of Scenes.” The Yellow Stocking Players is a student group of actors, designers and directors who are interested in studying and performing the plays of Shakespeare. Named after a comic sketch in “Twelfth Night,” the Players made their debut performance in 2009 putting on that very play. This year, the “Night of Scenes” will include montages and scenes from a variety of the Shakespeare canon, including “The Mechanicals” (from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”), “Macbeth” 1.7, “Twelfth Night” 1.5, “Antony & Cleopatra,” “As You Like It” 3.2 & 4.1 and “A Montage of Scenes” as well as “Taming of the Shrew.”

Director Julia Cooper ’12 notes that the group’s decision to put on a variety of scenes, as opposed to a single performance, is “to have a collaborative experience with as many participants as possible … We all plan to work (or play) together as much as possible, so that actors and directors can inspire and advise each other.”

Directing credits for this semester’s production draw from all over the campus community, from first years like Amelia Dornbush ’15 to alum Chris Klanecki ’10. Dornbush described in an email the relevance and resonance of themes in Shakespeare’s plays like “Taming” to modern life.

The story, put simply, is “Kate is viewed as a ‘shrew’; Petruchio tries to ‘tame’ her.” Dornbush added that in the next weeks leading up to performance, the challenge for her and her cast is to discuss “whether or not Kate really is tamed in the end, and what significance comes as a result of either conclusion.”

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