Of all the fields of study at Union University, theater is perhaps the one that has changed the least over the last 100 years. Students are still building sets, learning lines and bringing characters to life on stage. While Union’s plays may not take place on the largest of stages or with all the latest equipment, the hard work and talent of the students and faculty who come together always results in a production that delights.
Every part of a Union production—from building and painting the set, to lighting design, to props and costumes and ushering—exists because of the students who dedicate their time and energy to making it happen. Professor Jon Klonowski, one of the two directors here at Union, claims the customer gets the “sweet deal” in the situation because the quality of these students’ work is well worth the admission price.
Every school year the theater department puts on four different productions. Though they do not follow a specific formula in choosing each year’s shows, there is a lot that directors David Burke and Klonowski consider when they map out each season.
When the two sit down to discuss a potential play selection, the first thing they look at is theme. Does the message of this show integrate well with what we stand for here at Union?
“I like to think of it as, ‘Could someone preach a sermon off this show?'” Klonowski said.
While each play they choose may not overtly convey the story of the gospel, they often give evidence of the fallen world and the human condition. Redemptive qualities are always a plus for the directors.
In regards to mature content and language, they try not to let its presence in a play paralyze them. In some cases, excess profanity can be altered or toned down, but they always want to make sure that they are true to the characters and story. Sometimes mature content is necessary to convey the deep messages a play contains.
On a more practical level, Burke and Klonowski also consider the genres of plays they have done recently. They want to be sure to cycle through them, striking a balance between modern pieces, classic pieces, mysteries, comedies and tragedies.
It’s important to do things that people know and are going to want to see, Klonowski said, but it’s also important to introduce new things that an audience may not be as familiar with. Mixing up the types of plays they choose provides a growing experience for everyone involved.
Klonowski considers play attendance an important aspect of culture-building that college students should take part in. Theater brings awareness to issues in our world that some audience members may not have considered. At the same time, it increases empathy in people even more so than TV or movies, especially if the actors are doing an exceptional job.
A live performance feels more authentic and evokes stronger emotional responses in the audience. For Union productions specifically, students should come to see and support the work that their fellow classmates have done, Klonowski said. He invites students to contemplate the collaborative effort exhibited by students.
Neil Simon’s FOOLS is running Nov. 12-17, with performances at 7:30 p.m. every night except Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. matinee. Pre-sale tickets are being sold outside Brewer Dining Hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every weekday. Student/faculty tickets are $4 pre-sale, $6 at the door, and general admission is $7 pre-sale and $9 at the door.
While this comedic tale certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously and is sure to leave audiences laughing, it still contains important themes the audience can take with them. Come appreciate the work your classmates put into this production, and as Burke says in the program, “Sit back and simply enjoy.”