UA Theatre to present “Arcadia”

UA+Theatre+to+present+%22Arcadia%22

UA Theatre and Dance’s new production, “Arcadia,” directed by David Bolus created an environment of escapism – one where attendees can view raw emotion in a world untouched by the editing process of film. CW | Amy Sullivan

Aaron Bonner

The theater is a place of escapism – one where attendees can view a world untouched by the editing process of film, where emotion is raw and pieces can bring the audience together to reach an understanding about major issues or themes.

This is the idea behind UA Theatre and Dance’s new production, “Arcadia,” directed by David Bolus. Bolus was previously a part of a one-year fellowship for dramatic writing, where he spent time as a teaching assistant and actor within the theatre department.

“[The cast] didn’t quite know what they were getting into,” Bolus said. “It’s been exciting because we’ve gotten to learn how to waltz, and we’ve gotten to learn a little more about the time periods we live in right down to the way that they ate. We’ve gotten to play around with what it means to be in academia … What it means to try to go after research and what it means to be go out and be proven wrong.”

“Arcadia” takes place in Sidley Park in Derbyshire, England, and follows two timelines – one in 1809/1812 and one in the present day that converge during several parts of the story. The play differs itself from others by featuring a single set – a table sits in the middle of the stage where actors place items relevant to the plot. 

These objects, once placed, never leave the table, allowing the play to show the progress of time as characters in 2016 timeline work to find out what really happened in Sidley Park in the 1800s.

“You end up with this mountain of props on this table that you end up having to sort through for every single scene,” Bolus said. “Tracking that and looking at the table and hoping it doesn’t buckle under the weight of all these props has been a huge challenge. There are a lot of intellectual challenges as well.”

Over the course of “Arcadia,” the plot delves into scientific theories such as Fermat’s Last Theorem, iteration and the chaos theory. These scientific theories tie into the overall chaos of the play, following two timelines that use these equations and hypotheses simultaneously to solve a mystery.

Because the script of “Arcadia” had ideas within that needed to be translated for an audience who may not be familiar with the ins-and-outs of these theories, Bolus spent the first weeks of rehearsal using the stage as a chalkboard. With Arcadia being a “thought-provoking” play, the cast and crew wanted to ensure the play is talked about while ensuring the meaning of the text isn’t lost in translation.

Daniel B. Hulsizer, a junior majoring in musical theatre, plays the role of Ezra Chater, a character in the 1809 timeline of the play. Chater, a poetic writer, is challenged to a duel by Lord Byron that is later investigated in the 2016 timeline to find out what happened to Chater.

“To be up there [on the stage], it’s a whirlwind,” Hulsizer said. “It’s so fascinating to put yourself in that world in 1809, and the amount of character work and character analysis that I did to go into this … is double the time of what I usually do. Getting up there and telling this fascinating and gut-wrenchingly fantastic story, I’m very excited, and I think the audience will definitely enjoy it.”

Though Hulsizer’s character is only in two scenes of the play, Hulsizer spent time behind the scenes with a notebook, writing poetry and character analysis notes. 

“I told myself I was not going to highlight my lines until every single reference that my character spoke of, I understood it and why it fit into the play,” Hulsizer said. “Let me tell you, we got this script before Christmas break, and I didn’t highlight until about two weeks before our first rehearsal.”

“Arcadia” was last shown at the University in 1996, but while members of the audience might have seen the play, Bolus said the play’s only change was to update the play to be more scientifically accurate within the context of 2016.

“Definitely as far as ideas, theories and understanding, it’s for an older audience, which is fine because at The University of Alabama, everyone is 18 and up. It’s not something you’d bring your kids to, but it’s one our older audiences is going to appreciate due to the fact that it’s a well-known play,” said Jamie Schor, a marketing and public relations representative for UA Theatre and Dance.

In the days before the first showing, rehearsals have finished, and only technical runs are playing. Azaline Gunn, a sophomore majoring in theatre and Arcadia’s stage manager, takes the stage in a new way by adjusting aspects the audience may not even notice to ensure the show goes on.

For Gunn, being a stage manager is a job that’s often hectic, with multiple aspects of a production that could go wrong at any moment, from issues with cast members to an issue with audio. These unfortunate moments have even happened during a showing.

“I’ve worked on shows where we have had actresses step on curling irons during intermission and we’ll have to pull in an understudy during the show,” Gunn said. “There are times where something might go wrong with the lighting equipment. Sometimes though, it’s something as simple as like a cue is caught a little bit late. When that happens, the audience usually doesn’t notice, but in the back of my head, I might be having a heart attack, but it all blows over.”

With “Arcadia” being a play focused on a single table filled with props, technical aspects of the play have, so far, been less of an issue for Gunn and the rest of the crew.  For Gunn, if the audience walks away talking about the plot rather than the production, it’s a job well done. 

“It’s a new kind of chaos,” Gunn said. “It’s one that I feel like is a nice learning experience for everyone involved in the show because it’s very different from the traditional. It’s a completely new breed of show compared to what we usually do in this department.”

“Arcadia” will run from April 11-17 in the Allen Bales Theatre, with showings at 7:30 each night and an earlier 2:30 showing on April 17. Tickets can be bought online at ua.tix.com or at the box office in Rowand-Johnson Hall.