October 17, 2019

Audience participation is integral to DSU production - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Audience participation is integral to DSU production

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2019 3:17 pm

Snippets of this and that are thrown together in Dakota State University's first theater production of the year, "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind." The ensemble production is comprised of short plays with a variety of themes.

"The short plays range from comical to serious, but all are poignant and relevant," said DSU theater director Ann Marie Elder.

In one, four actors outline the 12-step process which leads to war. In another, two political candidates end up wrestling around on the floor. Altogether, the 11-person cast has prepared 30 short plays, including several about the nature of relationships.

"A lot of these things are a spoof off things we do in theater," Elder indicated.

Of course, what the audience sees will depend upon what they request. When the time runs out, the performance is over regardless of whether all the plays have been presented or not.

"That's the way the play works," Elder said. "The playwright is very specific how he wants the play done."

At rehearsal earlier this week, the actors were still navigating their parts, seeking to get beyond the words to the character underlying the words. In one play, a couple negotiates how each should act when the man tells the woman to "come here." Finally, the woman just refuses to enter into the discussion.

Laura Garcia explained her character's response by comparing it to doing dishes at home. She might be planning to do dishes, but when asked to do dishes, she resists.

"Now I don't want to do the dishes because it's what's expected," she said.

Elder said she collaborated with students in deciding to present "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" and in selecting plays. Before she even arrived on campus, she was approached by Bree Weidenbach and Sarah Freyberg, president and vice president of the DSU Theater Club, who suggested creating a shared Google doc where they could exchange ideas.

The play selected appealed to Elder, who is new to DSU this year, because it would allow her to explore the strengths of thespians on campus.

"Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" was originally developed for an experimental theater troupe in Chicago by playwright Greg Allen. Elder finds the title both odd and apropos.

"As I look at the plays, as I look at the work in its entirety, each one of them wants you to look below the surface, but you'd better be careful. Once you start doing that, you start asking hard questions," she said.

Those hard questions can shine too much light on the ideas and issues being explored.

Those who present "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" have 90 short plays from which to choose. The idea is to present 30 of them in 60 minutes. That is part of the appeal for Weidenbach.

"I like how fast-paced it is," she said.

Elder said she read all 90 and made the initial selections. However, she discussed the options with the cast, who were instrumental in making the final decision.

Each night, the audience will be handed a program with a numbered list of play titles. Those in the audience will select the order of the plays one at a time. Sometimes a member of the audience will also be asked to join the actors on stage.

The stage is simple, a backdrop of flats depicting silhouettes of two individuals holding flashlights. The costuming is equally simple -- T-shirts and jeans. A single cardboard box holds most of the props needed for the show.

However, the content is not simple.

"There are moments in the show that are very thought-provoking. I think it will cause an audience member to look inside themselves and ask questions," Elder said.

She acknowledges that some plays might be more appealing to the audience than others, and warns the production is not suitable for children. It contains both mature themes and mature language.

With "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," the cast is taking the production to the audience. It will be presented in The Underground, which is located in the basement of the Trojan Center.

"We thought we would do a better job of bringing them down if it was in the Trojan Center," Elder said.

The show will begin at 7 p.m. on three consecutive Thursdays, beginning Oct. 10. It is free to students; admission is $5 for non-students.

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