Experimental Drama Arrives at BW


Les Hunter

In Wellman’s “The Sandalwood Box,” student Marsha Gates has lost her voice to the great Unseen. On her way to speech therapy, she becomes entangled with Professor Claudia Marshall, a mysterious collector of catastrophes. This surreal and unsettling short play explores themes of trauma and violence inside a fantastical world that is at once familiar and strange.

Jessica Davis, Contributing Writer

The Sandalwood Box is the latest play to have been put on by Baldwin Wallace students in honor of the Mac Wellman Homecoming Festival hosted in Cleveland this past weekend.

An experimental play by Mac Wellman, The Sandalwood Box explores unsettling themes of trauma and violence.

Mac Wellman is a fairly well-known experimental playwright currently living in Brooklyn, though he will soon be returning back home to Cleveland for the homecoming festival honored in his name, according to Dr. Hunter.

Set in a rainforest in South Brooklyn, one could say the play is anything but ordinary.

Marsha Gates, an undeclared student at City College, loses her voice to the great Unseen. In an endeavor to regain her voice through speech therapy, Gates meets Professor Claudia Marshall, who is a “mysterious collector of catastrophes,” according to the Director’s Note.

In fact, the play is untraditional in nearly every sense as it strays away from the common Stanislavski style of realism and even typical rehearsal techniques, according to Director Les Hunter.

Dr. Hunter is a professor within the English Department at Baldwin Wallace, teaching subjects such as playwriting and theater-based English courses.

However, Hunter said that he is more of a playwright than a director, making this a unique experience for both him and the BW students cast in the play, as he does not always get the chance to interact with them in this type of setting.

Hunter explained that while directing the play, he and the Baldwin Wallace students focused on movement. The students brought their own movements to the rehearsals, where they and Dr. Hunter integrated them into the scenes of the play. Particular movements became symbolic throughout the play, similar to how a motif functions in music, Dr. Hunter said.

The focus on movement in the play is highly inspired by Wellman’s statement that plays are not about plots, but about moments, according to the Director’s Note.

“And moments are about epiphanies when something happens that wakes you up,” Wellman says.

Wellman also states that he desires to make his plays different from what is expected—to give the audience a slap in the face.

This is exactly what Dr. Hunter aimed to do while directing the play. “The cast, crew, and I hope the show is as much a slap in the face as it is a caress or a tickle,” Hunter wrote in his Director’s Note.

The Sandalwood Box, as directed by Dr. Hunter, was performed most notably this past weekend by BW students at the Mac Wellman Homecoming Festival, where Wellman was present himself, as well as on Baldwin Wallace’s campus.

Dr. Hunter ends his Director’s Note saying that the opportunity to put on Wellman’s play at this festival left the cast and director feeling a bit “tickled” themselves.