By Brian L. Brink
As Professor of performing arts Pete Rydberg put it, playwrights have one of the most difficult jobs ever. They write plays and then send them off to the world, he said, hoping those who perform them won’t mess them up too badly. Playwrights give birth only to immediately give the baby away, Rydberg said.
He said that he would feel “absolutely terrified” if the playwright for Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris attended one of the shows at Thiel, that ran from Thursday, Nov. 9, through Sunday Nov. 12. No college production, Rydberg said, could ever be on the same level as that of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, who staged the plays world premiere. Because of this, he would hope that Norris would see the passion that was put into this production, not just by him, but also the student actors.
When talking about one student, Talia Jackson, he said that the way she can speak paragraphs without opening her mouth is something that came only from her. Rydberg said that he can only give executable direction to the cast and those do not include how to look at their fellow actors.
However, Rydberg said, “getting it ready was a bear,” with the biggest obstacle being the language of the play. He said there is no polite give and take, and it imitates real life conversation, unlike the Shakespearean classic plays.
Another major challenge the actors had was having to play two characters each. He said that there are parallels between the characters of the first act and the characters of the second act. However, the actors did not make connections between their two characters until the last three weeks of production.
Rydberg said that he chose Clybourne Park for many reasons. The play is perfect for college, he said, because it opens a conversation that most students don’t think to talk about: prejudices and the use of labels when talking about ethnic groups. He said that students should be left questioning after the show is finished.
Which is why Thiel College put on a panel after the show to talk about those topics, along with the “white flight” of the 1950s and 1960s. The panel was moderated by Paul Miller, and consisted of: assistant professor of political science Marie Courtemanche, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college Liz Fombgen, Rromano Mitchell, Chimimaka Palmer, and professor of sociology Cynthia Sutton.
The Thursday night dress rehearsal was open to the public and brought in a crowd of a few dozen. Most were students that had to watch it for class credit which is why, Rydberg announced before the play began that, to get the credit was to get their playbill stamped after the panel.
The next Thiel Players production will be a musical adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost during the spring semester.