Of Shakespeare & silence


Whether you’re interested in getting your proverbial hands dirty or you’d just prefer to enjoy an engaging show put on by your peers, students should expect a lively semester for theatre with two upcoming mainstage shows.

The first play this season is “Small Mouth Sounds,” written by Bess Wohl and directed by Kyle Gillette, professor of theatre.

“‘Small Mouth Sounds’ is about silence and its impossibility, I would say. Concretely, it concerns six people at a silent meditation retreat, and most of the time there is no dialogue,” Gillette said. “So it’s really about trying to find some peace and the kind of difficulties of that, at least. On one hand, a novel could do this interestingly by giving us a sense of the thoughts inside [the characters’] heads, but what’s interesting about this play is that it does something particular to theatre and kind of enforces the spectators to experience something like what the characters are experiencing, to be immersed in this retreat, to be quiet and to pay attention to how people disclose themselves when they’re not expressing with language.”

While “Small Mouth Sounds” concerns the solemnity and silence of theatre, the second mainstage play does the opposite. Directed by Roberto Prestigiacomo, faculty member at Trinity and director of the theatre for social change, “Lady Macbeth: A Tragic Comedy” takes the classical Shakespearian play “Macbeth” and applies a new twist with the help of the annual Stieren guest artist Andrea Cavarra.

“Andrea Cavarra is a master of commedia dell’Arte, which is a form of physical theatre — that is, comedy of the profession — and involves taking a Shakespearian tragedy and making it into a comedy by using the commedia dell’Arte [tradition],” Prestigiacomo said. “I understand that [‘Lady Macbeth’ is] a completely opposite style of what we’re doing with ‘Small Mouth Sounds.’ While ‘Small Mouth Sounds’ is minimalistic, ‘Lady Macbeth’ is really broad and really big and loud.”

Prestigiacomo shared his goals in directing “Lady Macbeth” for both students in production, as well as the general audience.

“For students, it’s pretty important for people in theatre to understand on-hand from a master how a dramatic tradition like commedia dell’Arte works,” Prestigiacomo said. “For performers, [the performance provides a way to] explore how their bodies can express and communicate, and that’s one of the greatest tools that theatre can offer everybody. As for the audience, they are going to be transported into a new world, be entertained, take a break from troubles and laugh together.”

Stacy Connelly, professor and director of theatre, spoke briefly about her role in organizing the two seasons that go on throughout the school year.

So [between the two mainstage plays and the number of student-run plays], we have a lot of productions going on for which I act as a kind of production manager. I’m checking in with the directors or with the designers, making sure they’re communicating with each other, and I check on the progress of those shows and make sure they have what they need,” Connelly said. “I also teach the university theatre company class, and it’s all the students who are involved in one of our two mainstage productions this semester.”

The process for selecting the plays involves both faculty from the theatre department — who will direct the mainstage plays — and the Trinity University Players, which is Trinity’s student-run production unit, according to Connelly.

“For these students, as well as students intending to major in theatre, putting on different kinds of productions works to prepare them for the industry beyond university theatre. So we try to do shows that reflect that range,” Connelly said. “We try to give [our students] variety, and this year we tried to increase our students’ awareness of newer plays and newer playwrights.”

This range is reflected in the production of the plays with students playing a critical role in more than just acting roles.

“[Directing plays is] very much a collaboration, so I don’t consider myself in most of these productions at Trinity as a sort of auteur, but rather as someone who’s guiding collaboration between designers, dramaturge, stage managers and actors,” Gillette said. “Early on during rehearsals, it’s exploring the play, staging it, starting to add things and refining it, so it’s guiding the whole process, asking questions and trying to tease out stuff like that. It’s not always just trying to realize what the play’s already doing as if there was some secret within the play that needs to be shown, but more like creating an autonomous event that has the play as one of its collaborators.”