How does one go about directing a play with no constructed characters or set? For junior Vanessa FitzGerald, meeting this challenge meant the opportunity to present “4.48 Psychosis” to the University theater community.
“I had never thought about directing before, but this play was something that just hit my heart so much I had too,” she said. “I had more of a desire to see this play then to act in it.”
The final work by the late English playwright Sarah Kane, “4.48 Psychosis” was first performed in 2000 and produced posthumously, giving the sense that at some level, the play deals with Kane’s depression, which she struggled with until committing suicide in 1999, shortly before completion of the work.
“When I first read the play, I found it to be the most honest, raw, beautiful writing I had ever read. It hit me somewhere that nothing had ever hit me before,” said FitzGerald, a dramatic literature major.
To further explain the work, FitzGerald referenced a discussion led by the playwright’s brother, Simon Kane, following her death. He said that the play is “about suicidal despair, so it is understandable that some people will interpret this play as a thinly veiled suicide note.” But, he added, “This simplistic view does both the play and my sister’s motivation for writing it an injustice.”
The play, which FitzGerald describes as being written “more like a modernist poem” follows three sets of dialogue – all written for gender-neutral voices – and keeps to a loose sense of form.
“It doesn’t matter what gender they are,” she said. “It’s the point that they’re human beings. It’s the human being’s mind as they struggle with sanity and their will to live,” she said.
“The three voices are all specific and different, but they’re linked together because they share this common thread – the search for love,” she said, characterizing the thematic continuity of the work.
Keeping with a fluid form, the play lacks any indication of setting, stage or props.
“[Kane] let us in and she let us in without holding back,” FitzGerald said, referring to the intimacy of the work. “She’s not scared to make you feel what she’s going through.”
Although FitzGerald said her primary focus is acting, she does not rule out directing plays in the future.
“I would hope to direct again, but only if another project comes along that I’d feel so passionate about,” she said. FitzGerald has acted in main stage performances with the campus theater community, as well as performing in the New Plays Festival last semester. She will be in 14th Grade Players’ production of “Baby in the Bath Water” this April.
Despite the heaviness of themes, FitzGerald argues for the relatable quality of the subject matter.
“People will connect with different scenes,” she said.
“It’s also one of the most experimental plays student theater [at the University] has ever done; it’s definitely going to be an experience.” She added, “We want you to be able to walk in and feel like you’re entering the mind.”
“4.48 Psychosis” will be performed in the Lisner downstage Thursday, Feb. 26 and Friday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.. Tickets are $5.