Woyzeck is a dark play, but LC students are hopeful that their adaptation will help shine a light on the events currently taking place in Syria.
“It’s really about this oppressive environment where the poor have very few options,” said director Geoff Kershner, assistant professor of theatre.
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The manuscript was found in pieces and unfinished after German writer Georg Buchner’s death in 1837, which makes it open to radically different interpretations, Kershner said. He has seen the play performed in five entirely different settings, and it was also the first play he ever directed at age 22.
When he thought about a government really hurting its own people, Syria immediately came to mind so he called LC’s local expert, Dr. Sabita Manian, professor of international relations.
Dr. Manian gave a lecture to the 15 members of the theatre crew and helped them understand how their characters would fit into the real world in Syria. A 45-minute lecture turned into a two-hour discussion as students quizzed Dr. Manian, who was thrilled by the collaborative, cross-disciplinary effort.
“I found it to be a great teaching moment,” she said. “That’s what a liberal arts education is all about.”
Dr. Manian noted that, for her, the play really show how civil war from any time period affects individual lives. Students agreed.
“One of the many reasons theatre should be performed is to effectively communicate an impacting vision for the audience,” said Bradley Branham ’15, who has the lead role. “In the case of Woyzeck, we are able to bring to life the incredibly saddening and dehumanizing effects of war on society. Syria and many other places around the world are currently experiencing an extreme humanitarian crisis. If we can communicate the destructiveness of these crises to the audience then just maybe we can engage them, and move them to act on the issue themselves. Although, none of us may be able to imagine war to its fullness, Woyzeck’s ability to provoke a similar feeling is what makes this show unusual.”
“The experience with Woyzeck has definitely been an interesting one,” said Grace Parker ’17, who stars as Woyzeck’s wife Marie. “Knowing what is going on in Syria at this time, and having the play set in Syria definitely modernizes this play and adds a very uneasy feeling to the production because what is happening there is so traumatizing. It also makes each and every character especially unique; they have to figure out their part in this conflict and how it has affected them personally. It is a terrifying setting to put yourself in; you don’t know what is going to happen next and it makes each character feel very vulnerable at one point or another.
“This experience has definitely opened my eyes to the social issues and it makes you feel uncomfortable thinking you are smack in the middle,” said David Dover ’16, who has the role of the captain.
The setting is a gritty, urban one, which brings the audience up on stage for a very intimate experience. Only about 80 people can be seated for one performance. Performances will be in the Dillard Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 28, and March 1; and at 2 p.m., March 2. All seats are $5. For tickets, call the LC Box Office at 434.544.8380 or go to www.lynchburgtickets.com.