Ambition in Three Acts

The impact of a theatrical production can echo through people’s lives for years. This ability is difficult to master, but GW’s many student theater groups intend to reach this goal this upcoming semester.

The three student theater groups on campus boast a diverse, challenging and creative season. With everything from Shakespeare to Tony Kushner to a rock musical composed with music by “The Who,” this semester not only brings diversity to GW stages, but it also offers an opportunity for artistic growth.

Though there is no common theme amongst the three companies – 14th Grade Players, Forbidden Planet Productions (FPP) and Generic Theatre Company – one can easily see that each company intends to impact the student body with its productions, hopefully drawing more attention to the student theaterscene at GW.

Perhaps one of the most impressive of these ambitious undertakings is FPP’s production of Tony Kusher’s “Angels In America.” The theater company which brought us both “Rocky Horror” and “Hair,” is now tackling something in an entirely different spectrum.

“‘Angels in America’ is a show of epic proportions, and since we will be performing both parts on separate weekends, the process will inevitably be difficult,” FPP’s Publicity Director Shaina Lamchick said.

Quicktakes: Campus Plays

  • Forbidden Planet Productions
  • “Angels in America”
  • Musical Cabaret with music from “Chicago and “West Side Story”
  • “Company”
  • 14th Grade Players
  • “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
  • “Boeing Boeing”
  • “Charley’s Aunt”
  • “Much Ado About Nothing”
  • Generic Theatre Company
  • “Crave”
  • “The Who’s Tommy”
  • “Almost, Maine”

“Angels In America,” a Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winner, is split up into two parts, One, “Millennium Approaches” and Two, “Perestroika,” and the performances will be spread out over two weekends. The combination of parts one and two runs roughly seven hours, making this play a huge challenge for any college company to produce. Commenting on the struggle with AIDS, “Angels In America” deals with themes of religion, sexuality and relationships. The actors have been rehearsing the play since November, and all proceeds will benefit the Whitman-Walker Clinic.

In addition to “Angels In America,” FPP will be producing a musical cabaret and “Company.” The musical cabaret features songs and scenes from “Chicago” and “West Side Story” as well as scenes from other popular musicals. The musical theme is continued with Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” – a musical that Lamchick says is “both challenging and entertaining, satirical and touching.”

Moving away from musical theater, the 14th Grade Players’ season boasts plays that are both classical as well as contemporary. One show that sticks out is Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Directed by Jake Pitkow, Albee’s once highly controversial play will provide many challenges for both the actors and the director.

“A lot of the show’s plot points were awful taboos 45 years ago, but are now pretty standard on primetime television,” Pitkow said. “But like any older show, the issue becomes ‘how does this relate to today’s audience?'”

Shockingly, when the play first came out it in the 1960s, it was denied the Pulitzer Prize after having been selected as the recipient by the award’s drama board. The award’s advisory board deemed the play too controversial due to its frankness regarding sex.

Nevertheless, the director emphasized that “the pain and suffering that (the lead characters) go through is just as relatable as ever, and the humor in the show – of which there is a lot – is just as funny now. Pitkow hopes to have a successful directorial debut, and says of “Woolf” in 14th Grade’s season: “For a company that prides itself on difficult, important literary shows, you don’t get too much better than this.”

Rounding out an ambitious season, Generic Theatre Company also intends to “push the envelope” this semester, Executive Producer Meghan Long said. Generic will be taking on various dramatic pieces including the rock musical, “The Who’s Tommy” and also a unique piece by playwright Sarah Kane entitled, “Crave.”

Not your traditional musical, “Tommy” tells the story of a boy who has been scarred in his early life and has thus become “deaf, dumb, and blind” (a la “Pinball Wizard.”) The musical takes the audience through a mother’s struggle to save her pinball-playing son, while entertaining with song and dance. “Tommy” offers a unique opportunity to break through the boundaries of the classic musical, and offers GW insight into a different genre of musical theater. Generic’s Artistic Director Jimmy Morgan said, “When someone thinks ‘musical,’ I think they jump to something closer to Rodgers and Hammerstein rather than ‘The Who’ and electric guitars.”

“Tommy” intends to shatter this stereotype.

Strikingly different from “Tommy” is another of Generic’s big undertakings: “Crave.” Described by director Dan Kenner as a play about the “abuses of love,” “Crave” hopes to be drastically different from any other show GW has seen. A fifty-five minute play, “Crave”‘s impact is carried by a powerful script voiced by four actors with mere letters as labels, as opposed to names. Describing his directorial venture, Kenner relates “Crave” to a Jackson Pollock painting – stating that each of the lines are like a spatter of paint on a canvas. Kenner intends to include this idea in his production, having each of the actors interact with a blank canvas during every performance, splattering paint throughout the raw and emotional piece. The canvases will help illustrate the many layers of the play as well as the play’s ability to be always changing. As Kenner states, “Every night the art will be different . It can’t exist the same way more than once.”

With promises of both shocking and touching pieces, the GW student theater season will certainly warrant increased attention this spring. Regardless of the many challenges often faced by student theater companies, this semester’s ambitious team of artists hopes to overcome these roadblocks and reach out the student body at GW.

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