By Paige Ewing
The gods are coming to the stage in Rider’s production of The Good Person of Setzuan.
Directed by musical theater professor Louis Goldberg, the play tells the story of Shen Te, a woman who is trying to live a moral life in a city full of morally corrupt people. The gods are trying to find human goodness and give her a test.
However, as she tries to be good and maintain order, things begin to fall apart. Written by Bertolt Brecht, the story battles with the ideas of contemporary morality in a capitalist world.
Brandon Fuller, senior musical theater major, plays Shen Te’s grandfather, who is “the type of elder who has been through it all and couldn’t care less about what happens around him,” Fuller said.
Playing an 80-year-old man also comes with its obstacles.
“You can imagine how challenging it is for a 22-year-old to be a convincing grandfather,” he said. “There are many things to take into account that I have never known.”
Some of these things include the various health issues that accompany aging, such as bad posture and vocal strain, Fuller said.
“I’ve done a lot of character study and people-watching to make sure I can look as natural as possible in a body that is foreign to me,” he added.
Jacey Schult, a junior acting major, is also stepping out of her comfort zone to play the role of Mrs. Shin, something she describes as a “blast, but also a journey.”
“I’ve never played a manipulative, bad character before, and getting the opportunity to play one has led me to learn so much about myself,” she said.
Goldberg has been working with all the actors to learn body mannerisms to not only play, but become the roles they are portraying.
Fuller mentioned, “If I make a decision about my character at the beginning of the show — let’s say I wanted my character to walk with a hunch — I have to keep that decision up for the rest of it without ever letting it drop. It is very difficult to do so and I have worked on it a lot.”
Schult believes that working on these mannerisms has made her a stronger actor.
“Body work is my personal favorite part of finding a character,” she said. “I think it’s the glue that makes a character authentic. As we talked about the character and played with possibilities, I believe I have found Mrs. Shin’s mannerisms and her body and what makes her tick.”
Despite Brecht’s reputation for being a difficult playwright to perform, the audience can expect to be inspired by the amount of talent and work that has gone into this play.
The cast is confident in its ability to bring the play to life.
“This material is gorgeous and wordy, so it has been an amazing journey really diving into this text and creating a work that I am so incredibly proud of,” Schult said. “As an actor, I have learned the importance of maintaining this incredible energy while also remaining present in the moment, especially in a play as dense as Brecht.”
For Fuller, being a part of this production has been just as rewarding as it’s been challenging.
“Overall, the show is extremely fun to be involved in,” he said. “I love my character and being able to share the story with my cast.”
The Good Person of Setzuan is previewing on Wednesday, Oct. 25, and opens on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater. The production runs until Sunday, Oct. 29.
Printed in the 10/25/17 edition.