An unusual stage, modern take on a classical play

By Emily Klingman

Audience members will be able to be a part of the rare production of Gallathea, a 16th-century play that blurs the line between the stage and the viewers.

This production will also be authentic, as director Ivan Fuller is one of the few people who was previously a part of a professional production.

“When we did it, it was only the third production anyone has a record of since the 1500s,” said Fuller. “It was really rare 15 years ago, but there have been productions since. People have rediscovered it and realized how much fun it is.”

Senior musical theater major Sarah Catherine Carter, who plays Venus, the Roman goddess of love, caught on to the play’s buzz.

“I really love classical theater,” Carter said. “Having the chance to do something that isn’t Shakespeare but is from the same era and a little more unique — there haven’t been that many productions of it around the world, it’s not as well known — is really exciting.”

The story focuses on two girls whose fathers dress them as boys and send them away to save them from their village’s annual virginal sacrifice to the god Neptune. In the process, the two fall in love, each thinking the other is male. One of the play’s messages is about being true to oneself.

“[Gallathea] is also about trying to be someone you’re not and how you shouldn’t fight who you are,” Fuller said. “The girls are pretending to be boys, and they realize that doesn’t work.”

Carter agreed, adding that the play is relatable to audiences because “it’s about confused identities and about jealousy.”

Fuller explained Gallathea is different from many previous Rider productions because it will be performed in an unusual and intimate setting — the Pub.

“I have done productions of this style for the past 15, 20 years,” said Fuller. “I used to run a Shakespeare company that did productions this way, stripped down, in a place like the Pub with audience on all sides.”

Interaction is key to bringing the play to life.

“It’s about the relationship between the actors and the audience and the text, and having fun together, instead of sitting in the dark and [the audience] is removed from it,” said Fuller. “You’re not removed in these productions.”

Carter agreed, saying Gallathea is “not the kind of play where you can sit back, relax and zone out.”

“The audience is right there with us, and we’re in the audience too,” said Carter. “It’s really exciting because it’s very different in that it is a holistic experience with the audience. We’re going to be coming up to [the audience] and touching and joking with people. So it’s a really fun and engaging classical theater experience.”

Many productions indulge the audience in taking them away from their day-to-day lives so they can observe a different one. Gallathea is about the actors immersing the audience into the play’s atmosphere.

“Most of our productions are about creating a world of the play that’s up on stage, and the audience is in a different world,” Fuller said. “But this play is about sharing that world. So the audience is directly involved; they get dragged up on stage, they get talked to, played with. It’s very interactive.”

Achieving such an interactive relationship with the audience required the actors connecting with each other. Carter explained how warm-up games helped bring them together.

“We always start with warm-up games and always connect with each other even before we start to work in the scenes,” she said. “We’re all working together and establish a fun environment before we even start creating the scenes.”

The cast also had its work cut out to make a classical play reach a contemporary audience.

“[Part of the] challenge is the language,” said Fuller. “We’re not used to speaking in these kinds of words, these kinds of sentence structures, and so we’re finding a way to make it sound natural and contemporary. The play looks contemporary because we’re using contemporary costumes, it just doesn’t sound that way all the time.”

Carter said that audience members can look for some silliness from Gallathea.

“They can expect the unexpected,” she said. “There are a lot of secrets that I can’t talk about that are going to be pretty fun.”

 

Printed in the 3/30/16 edition.

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