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February 10, 2012
Vol. 53 No. 14

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Play offers look at 1800s iconic characters

SPLIT PERSONALITY
Courtesy of Allison Mann
SPLIT PERSONALITY - Cast members rehearse a scene from the upcoming production of Lauren Wilson's "Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play." The show begins Thursday, Feb.16 and is directed by senior Elizabeth Britton.
When Degenstein Theater opens its doors quarterly throughout the academic year, both Susquehanna students and the public are beckoned in to experience the living art that springs forth from the stage.
Premiering this February is a production different from other projects. It is called "Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play," the second annual student directed production in the school's history.
In past years, the theater department had organized a festival of various one-act plays directed by students.
However, the decision was made by theater faculty to pull these smaller student productions back into the classroom and as a result, freed up the theater for a fourth main stage event. Students enrolled in the directing class were invited to submit an application to direct a show of their choosing.
This year, the theater department faculty was seeking a full-length comedy, and Elizabeth Britton's submission, for "Chemical Imbalance" was selected.
Written by Lauren Wilson, "Chemical Imbalance" uses Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "The Strange Case" of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as inspiration to play up this farce on Victorian era society. Set in England during the 1800s, the plot focuses on the absurdity in the lives of aristocratic men and women who are teetering on all that is good and evil by social standards, said the website.
Britton, a senior theater major with an emphasis in performance and a minor in studio art, began working on her new project immediately.
Auditions were conducted before winter break in order to solidify the cast of nine different members, filling 12 different roles. One of the auditioning actors was David Natalie, a freshman theater major with an emphasis in performance.
Due to what Britton calls "an overabundance of talented male actors who turned up," Natalie was not selected for an acting role but rather Britton invited him to the other side of the stage as her assistant director.
"As a young actor without directing experience, being thrown into such responsibility motivated me to do my best. I learned by doing, having hands on experience. Liz put a lot of trust in me to help direct her vision; I even got to choreograph a fight scene, which was awesome," Natalie said.
Britton stuck to this "open dialogue" approach to directing, allowing some of the creative process to belongs to the actors as well.
This approach helped to balance out the ridged schedule and long list of accomplishments to meet before opening night. While most shows have six to eight weeks to prepare, Britton and her crew had only five weeks to prepare. Practices were held Monday through Saturday, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The elaborate set needed dedicated working hours, as it was built upon a turntable that can be rotated about to reveal four different scenes. Lighting, sound and technical components of the show all required the same attention and time.
Despite the challenges, Britton admits that the approaching opening night is bitter sweet. "I have discovered how much I love to direct. To watch an actor fully understand the vision, be in the moment making 3D art come alive, and knowing that you helped create that is incredible," said Britton.
Audience members can expect much from this show. They will be drawn into the plot, laughing consistently throughout.
"At the very least, there are boys in dresses," joked Natalie.
"Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play" will hold performances on Feb. 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and a matinee showing at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 19. Tickets are free for Susquehanna students, $8 for non-Susquehanna students and $10 for adults.

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