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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

‘Beyond Therapy’ transforms reading to roars

Director+David+Alford+breaks+down+a+scene+for+the+cast+of+Beyond+Therapy+during+their+rehearsals.
Ursula Saadeh
Director David Alford breaks down a scene for the cast of “Beyond Therapy” during their rehearsals.

Baldwin Wallace University Theatre and Dance explores navigating relationships through caricature comedy with a staged reading of “Beyond Therapy,” that opens on Friday in the lobby of the Kleist Center for Art & Drama.

“Beyond Therapy” is an absurdist comedy written by Christopher Durang in 1981. The play follows Prudence and Bruce, two Manhattan singles whose therapists each advise them to place a personal advertisement in the paper. The duo’s meeting does not go according to plan, and they report back to their therapists, both of whom may be more troubled than their patients.

David Alford, a visiting assistant professor of theatre and acting, directs this staged reading. Alford said he is fond of Durang’s work, including how they say and do things that were outrageous in the 1980s and may still be shocking for today’s audiences.

Alford said Durang’s own experience with therapy — and the experiences of his friends — inspired him to write this play about people in therapy, their relationships with their therapists and how even their therapists needed therapy.

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“His reaction was to take it to an absurdist degree,” Alford said. “So, what if none of these people had any filter whatsoever and just said anything that came to mind? Of course, it’s pretty funny.”

Production stage manager Cat Hughes, a senior stage management student, said that as it is a staged reading, a lot of what audiences take from the show comes from how the actors can bring the text to life.

“It’ll be a really intimate performance where we can really see the emotions … and all the hard work that they’ve [the actors] put into it,” Hughes said. “It also really strips it back from that spectacle … and we get to see the core of the play, the script and the emotions that are put into it.”

Alford said that though there will be some movement and blocking, rehearsals are more focused on the actors sitting down and really understanding the text, which can be very interesting because every actor brings something different to the roles.

“What’s exciting is to dive into the texts and to make discoveries with the actors,” Alford said.

First-year BFA acting student Reina Thiegs, who reads the stage directions in “Beyond Therapy,” said the rehearsal process was less stressful than one for a production with a large production aspect. With the staged reading, the audiences can have a more immersive experience by being so close to the actors.

“I feel like that condensed time also allows for us to really focus in a short period of time and put a lot of work in,” Thiegs said. “It’s a really great acting experience to be that close to the audience.”

Thiegs said reading the stage directions was a valuable experience, and she said that she is excited to act as a guide for the audience to help them create the scenes in their minds.

“I think it’s fun because I get almost to draw out and allow everyone to envision through, just the stage directions that are written in the script, what would be happening theoretically, if we were on a big main stage,” Thiegs said.

With its comedic aspect, Alford said the actors had to learn how to act and react for this different theatrical discipline.

Senior BFA acting student Jennifer Jarvis, who plays Prudence, said that as a senior who has been a part of many dramatic plays at BW, she is thrilled to be a part of this “light-hearted” and “relatable” production.

“I think it’s just exciting to get to do comedy,” Jervis said. “I haven’t had that opportunity here at all, so I’m really excited to get to do that and work on comedic timing, like pausing for laughs, which is going to be different every night.”

Both Thiegs and Jarvis said they look forward to the lobby experience for “Beyond Therapy” and performing their roles to an audience of peers and theater-lovers.

“It’s one thing to have this crazy absurdist comedy on a stage, but I think to have it so up close and personal … people are really going to lose it,” Thiegs said. “The energy will probably be a lot in this space, which is exciting.”

Durang’s script is filled with references to old movies, and Jarvis said that Alford researched these films to relay them to the cast. By knowing the references, they could understand jokes in the script and relate to the dialogue.

Though the same rules of theater will still apply to this more relaxed environment, Alford detailed his anticipation for the “coffee house kind of vibe” that this staged reading will create in the Kleist lobby. He encouraged audiences to bring their own pillows.

“It feels a little less polished … so there’s this sort of pop in electricity to a really well-performed staged reading that I think is very cool,” Alford said. “There’s a sense that anything can happen, which is kind of fun.”

The cast and production team of “Beyond Therapy” said they hope that audiences will enjoy the staged reading format and are able to enjoy coming to the theater to “hear” a play, as Alford described it.

“Beyond Therapy” will run from Feb. 9-10 in the lobby of the Kleist Center for Art & Drama. Tickets are free and may be purchased at bw.edu/ events/recurring/beyondtherapy.

 

Last edited Feb. 9

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