October 20, 2011
Director James Levin (far right) on the set of "Marat/Sade" with (from left) Erika Daun as Charlotte Corday, Bridget Hillyer as Marat, and Rudy Christian as DeSade.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Veteran director James Levin grins like a poker player with a royal flush when asked what the audience can expect in The College of Wooster’s production of Peter Weiss’s “Marat/Sade” Oct 27-29 and Nov. 3-5 in Shoolroy Theatre (329 E. University St.).
“We’ll have plenty of surprises,” says Levin, who founded Cleveland Public Theatre in 1983 and has directed hundreds of plays throughout his career. “Theatre is calculated to provoke and disturb, and that’s part of what we are attempting to do in this production. It’s not ‘Pippin’ or ‘Mary Poppins.’”
But it is timely. The famous production, which ran on Broadway and later became a motion picture in the late sixties and early seventies, has a startling relevance to such present-day movements as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.
The premise of the play begs several questions, according to Levin, who is an associate professor of theatre and dance at Wooster and director of the College’s Center for Entrepreneurship. “Can political change really happen? Does revolution change anything?” he asks. “In other words, do those who bring about change ultimately fall victim to the same corruption (as those who were deposed)? Is the idealism of these movements warranted, or should we just accept things as they are?”
Not only will audience members be forced to consider such daunting questions, but they will also find themselves actively involved in the production, which Levin says “will eviscerate the fourth wall” that normally separates the audience from the actors.
“There will be an interactive component between the actors and the audience,” says Levin. “There will be scenes that taunt and challenge those in the theatre. Things could get a little uncomfortable.” There will also be a video screen that will call attention to society’s obsession with technology and its wariness of electronic surveillance. Much like a professional sporting event where people are always looking at the large screens, this production will also have a video screen on which audience members are likely to see themselves.
But that’s part of activist environmental theatre, according to Levin, who first directed this play in Cleveland in 1990. The major difference between the two is that he had six months to work with experienced actors the first time. This time he has six weeks to work with young students, many of whom are in their first year at Wooster. Still, Levin is confident that they will put on a good show. “The students are getting a visceral experience of environmental, political theatre,” he says. “I can’t think of (another production) that would be more relevant content-wise.”
Levin, who is back in the director’s chair for the first time in eight years, says he doesn’t want to give too much away about the production, but admits the creation of a ”faux” local in-patient youth-attention center that brings the setting close to home. He also revealed that the audience’s experience will be vastly different from what they are used to, beginning with an unusual entrance through a loading dock and into the theatre.
In addition to Levin’s role as director, recent College of Wooster graduate Lindsay Phillips will be in charge of choreography; staff-member Toni Shreve will serve as music director; and longtime colleague Chuck Karnak will be the video director. Overall, 24 students and two area residents make up the cast, and most will be visible and on stage throughout the entire play.
Tickets are $9 for general admission and $6 for senior citizens, faculty, and staff. College of Wooster students are admitted free of charge but must reserve their tickets ahead of time. Seating is limited. Call 330-263-2241 for additional information, or visit the box office Monday through Saturday from noon-2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. as well as 30 minutes prior to each production.
1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. (330) 263-2000
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