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Taking on the absurd

November 12, 2011
By Cindy Votruba (cvotruba@marshallindependent.com) , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - When the director of the upcoming Southwest Minnesota State University Black Box Theatre show decided to tackle an absurdist script, he knew it would be a challenge.

"And I was very right," said director Josh Johnson, an SMSU theater student.

The Southwest Minnesota State University drama club is presenting "The Bald Soprano" at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17-19 and 2 p.m. Nov. 20 in the SMSU Black Box Theatre.

"The Bald Soprano," which is by Eugene Ionesco, is a tough script, Johnson said.

"It kind of lacks plot, it's an absurdist commentary on the failures of the English language," Johnson said. "It's one of the hardest plays ever written."

Johnson said he came across the script through a theater history class he took and liked it a lot. Ionesco is also known for such plays as "The Chairs" and "Rhinoceros."

The play revolves around two couples, the Smiths and the Martins, along with a maid and a fire chief. The couples tell each other stories and nonsensical poems. Mrs. Martin even has a conversation with her husband as if he was a stranger she just met.

"When you deal with absurdist shows, it's hard to deal with relationships and story arcs," Johnson said.

Andrew Kompelien and Haley Jacobsen portray the Smiths. Besides having to speak in British dialects, the two said the fact that it's an absurdist play makes memorizing lines difficult.

"It's slightly challenging. Often your cue line does not give you what you are about to speak yourself," Kompelien said.

"It's really difficult because there's not linear thinking, you have to be on your toes," Jacobsen said. "I've never struggled with lines."

"The main part is knowing when our lines come in," said Megan Wilgenbusch, who plays Mrs. Martin.

Despite the show being a challenge for the actors and Johnson's first attempt at directing a full-length play, progress has slowly been made, they said.

"I'm quickly setting on who my character is so it's a lot easier to be in the moment," Kompelien said.

"For me, it will all come together when we're in costume," Jacobsen said.

And Johnson understands it's an absurdist play, Jacobsen said, in case there are any problems.

"He's open to ideas and suggestions," Kompelien added.

Johnson said that directing his fellow students is "different, but not in a bad way" and that they're terrific and patient with him.

"(They've) helped and tried everything I've wanted them to try," Johnson said.

The actors said they enjoy doing productions in the Black Box Theatre, which are mainly done by the students.

"It's a lot more hands on, it's more student-based," Wilgenbusch said.

 
 

 

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