Experimental theater examines art

by Will Conley

Lights and shadows, eerie music and polished acting blended in Crisis Point Theater’s production of “Scenes from an Execution.”
The play, written by Howard Barker, premiered May 14 in the Rarig Center’s Studio E in three-quarter round. The performance, which runs through Saturday, opened to an enthusiastic audience.
“This play was better than any other I’ve seen at the U. Sonja Kuftinec played the part of Galactia with such passion that I was afraid her sweat would hit me,” said Stephanie Bourgeois, a speech communications and religious studies major.
Combining dramatic social commentary with blunt humor, “Scenes,” set in Renaissance Venice, presented the struggle of a fictional female painter against the powers that be.
It “examines the role of the artist in society and the responsibilities which accompany the essentially arrogant act of creating art,” wrote director Natalya Baldyga in her director’s notes. Baldyga, a doctoral candidate in theater history, also designed the costumes.
The cast and crew are comprised of undergraduates, graduates, alumni and a professor in the University’s theater program, making for an unconventionally wide range of age and experience.
“The reason we (worked) together so well is because of the common dramatic goal in mind,” said Ben Williams, cast member and theater major. “The collaboration between Natalya and the actors made for a congruency of dramatic vision. Having that congruency made it much easier to forget about the difference of age to reach that dramatic goal and to just have fun.”
The lighting, designed by theater department alumna Kelly McClung, played a large role in setting the mood of the play. The actors moved amongst the strategically placed lights and shadows, which “says something about the world we occupy,” Baldyga said.
Along with the lighting, acting and costumes, the sound, designed by Derek “Duck” Washington, added an eerie aura to the play. In addition, Philip Glass music accompanied the pre-show and intermission, while Peter Gabriel was heard during the curtain call.
Crisis Point Theater of Danger and Opportunity is an experimental theater aiming to give students experience in all aspects of theater. The company performs seldom-produced plays as well as fresh versions of more established works. While it is separate from the University’s regular theater program, it receives student services fees funding.
“In these days in which funding for the arts is threatened and debates rage about what constitutes ‘dangerous’ art, ‘Scenes from an Execution’ provides a thought-provoking and darkly funny exploration of these themes,” wrote Baldyga.