For student directors, engaging with stereotypes presented the opportunity to overturn those stereotypes.
The musical “bare,” presented this weekend by Forbidden Planet Productions, explores the conflicts of high school seniors at a Catholic boarding school, centering on a romantic relationship between roommates Jason, a popular jock, and Peter, his more reserved boyfriend.
Jason is played by freshman Blake Eisenberg and Peter is played by Daniel Kaufman, also a freshman.
“The main character Peter is really struggling with coming out. He has nightmares throughout the show,” said director Sarah Martin, a junior. Martin, who choreographed “Rocky Horror Picture Show” last year, is co-directing “bare” with classmate Matthew Avento. The show marks both students’ directorial debut.
Avento first saw the show at the University of Delaware last year and was moved by the themes the music explored.
“I fell in love with the music,” he said. “Only after I listened to the music did I realize how poignant the story was.”
Most of the show itself is sung, he said, with only a few spoken lines.
Avento also attributed his interest in “bare” to its structure, which he said reduces each of the five lead characters to a stereotype in order to overturn that stereotype.
“The course of the play breaks down the stereotypes,” he said, emphasizing the significance of “One,” a song that comes at the end of the first act.
This sense of textual structure is accentuated with a minimal set – blocks for actors to stand on surround a large cross painted on the floor of the stage, serving as a constant reminder that the characters’ story exists within a Catholic boarding school.
Avento said the musical presented a challenge for the actors rarely explored in college theater.
“It’s so rare in any theater production that you are playing someone younger than you,” he said, noting that the actors are challenged to depict high school seniors.
“One of the reasons we chose the show was that it was completely in the potential range of our actors,” added Martin, noting the ability of the college-aged cast to channel angst – with issues ranging from homosexuality to unrequited love to weight.
Martin cited the Lisner downstage as a space that could achieve ideal intimacy with an audience, though the space itself presented a challenge in that it only holds about 65 people. Since the show is expected to sell out, tickets were sold Monday through Wednesday.
Martin and Avento auditioned students about 10 weeks ago and since then, different performers have practiced six days a week.
“They probably faded away for a bit, but there are feelings that we are really close to,” said Martin of themes addressed in “bare.”
“Bare,” by Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, presented by Forbidden Planet Productions, will be performed Thursday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. and Friday, Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 6, at 5 and 10 p.m. in the Lisner downstage. Tickets are $5.