Play Preview: Spoon River Anthology

Alexandria Smith

The Misericordia Players are tweaking their thespian skills to educate and entertain audiences in this semester’s production of “Spoon River Anthology.”

“Spoon River Anthology,” originally written in 1915 as a book of poetry, chronicles the lives of deceased men and women – scandal and all. According to the Poetry Foundation, the book originally caused a stir because of its “forthrightness about sex, mor- al decay, and hypocrisy” and its cynical view of Midwestern small town values, which influenced a whole generation of writers and their works.

Veteran director Donald Hopkins said the play’s themes still resonate with modern audiences.

“It [Spoon River] was first writ- ten in 1915. It was developed into a dramatic form in 1964, I think, and yet, what they talk about – single pregnancy, abortion, drunkenness, adultery, prostitu- tion – issues that are still relevant today,” Hopkins said.

He noted that the play is not a social monologue that the Players previously performed, it does allow for an exploration of important social themes. Hopkins said the issues are very much present even though this is not a modern selection.

“It’s not like Laramie Project, which is more modern, more dealing specifically with the issue. This supposedly took place in the past so we can deal with it from a distance. But the issue is still there,” Hopkins said.

First year pre DPT major Jacob Schweiger said he is not accustomed to acting out these mature and authentic topics. He is interested in expanding his skills.

“From where I came from, we always did comedies,” he said, “And the fact that it’s serious and the things that they talk about – because I’ve always been in high school theatre, where they’re kind of more censored, you know? The things they talk about are adult is- sues, rather than things you have to keep mild because you’re not showing it to younger audiences. There are not really any restrictions. It’s an adult show.”

Several members of the cast and crew believe the production has a lot to do with life – and so many of the topics will apply to everyone in the audience.

“We have different characters,”said Hopkins “Somebody who is full of life, a dancer, [the actor] plays a person who captures life and yet he also plays somebody who is defeated by life, and there are often little things that happen that stumble you to the dregs of life or raise you to the pinnacles of life, and it’s what happens to us in reality.”

Junior occupational therapy major Maria Weidemoyer admits that she is attracted to the unique and well-defined characters. She said that is one of the many reasons she decided to join the cast.

“That’s one of the things that intrigued me about this,” said Weidemoyer. “Each character has a different attitude towards life, and it kind of reflects how everyone has a different attitude towards life. Some of them talk about the happiest moments in their lives, some talk about the sadder moments in their lives, and it just makes you think about your own.”

Hopkins said he always strives to present different types of shows to keep the school and the audience on their toes – and in the theater.

“While I’ve been here, my goal has been to develop educational theater so that we are providing a variety of types of shows from comedy, farce, contemporary, classical, that will be entertaining as well as educational to the audience as well as to the actors and the technical people. And that’s what I like about this show.”

The show will feature a technically complex set, complete with a cemetery, musical talent and extensive acting talent.

“It gives us a great opportunity to provide some interesting technical effects, and it’s an actor’s show because the actors can develop a variety of types of characters. And it’s just them. There they are,” he said. “So it’s a great tool for the actors, it’s great experience for them, and I think it’s entertaining for the audience because we’ve got drama, we’ve got pathos, we’ve got comedy, and we’ve got a lot of music.”

“Spoon River Anthology” will open Oct. 31 and run through Nov. 2 in the Lemmond Theater in Insalaco Hall.

[email protected]