On the first weekend back from winter break the Independent Play Project, ran entirely by advanced theater students at Fairfield, took the stage in the PepsiCo Theatre to put on their production of “The Shape of Things.”
The show featured four main characters: Adam (Alec Bandzes ‘15), Evelyn (Maggie Greene ‘15), Jenny (Cristelle Sens-Castet ‘15) and Phillip (Brendan Freeman ‘15) who challenge ideas of what constitutes art. They experiment with right and wrong, moral and sexual issues faced by young people in real-life situations. Characters ask “What is art?” and “What is one’s opinion of art?”
Adam says, “Hey miss, you crossed the line,” in the museum scene, a segue into a show that examines questions of if the line truly exists and, if so, when is that line crossed.
All four characters go through tremendous changes when the ties they have together become tangled, and those differences can be seen by the small, but noticeable costume changes throughout the show.
During the show, the audience is completely drawn into the lives of all four characters. In the end when the action comes to a head, the audience can’t help but reflect on why they have certain opinions on what happened between Evelyn and Adam. The show ends with a surprising twist that is both angering and shameful.
When it came to making a show about art, “The Shape of Things” team realized the true differences between visual and performing art, and so the crew reached out to the Fairfield art students to seek their opinions on visual art. Both teams worked together to fill the theatre lobby with artwork for the show.
Following the performance on opening night, there was an in-depth discussion with the audience and design panel. Lighting designer Christina Barry ‘15, began to discuss her choices for the lights used in the show.
“I used red and green lights for the true Adam and Eve moments, but the moments when we saw Evelyn being human, because they’re all still human, we used the cooler tones like blues and yellows,” said Barry.
The costume designer, Katie Gillette ‘15, answered the audience’s question of “What do they want the audience to take away from the show?” and replied with, “It’s subjective!” After a laugh from the crowd, she went into true detail of what she believed.
“I want people to have an opinion. If it makes you angry, upset, think about yourself. That is why art is made. It is not made to look at, but to be talked about,” said Gillette.
Interview with Brendan Freeman ‘15 (Phillip) and Alec Bandzes ‘15 (Adam).
MM: What is your personal take on the play and what it’s trying to convey?
BF: Interestingly, this play can be interpreted in a million different ways. Audiences may find the play is about the subjectivity of art, the dangers of pressure and conformity in institutions, or perhaps the difficulty of defining art. It sounds corny, but the takeaway for audiences is subjective. What is beautiful and frustrating about this play is that it is not black and white.
AB: I think this is a play about love its very dynamic nature. Every character in this play is passionate about something — and it’s exciting to see throughout the course of the plot how passionate and love both coincide and clash. Evelyn loves her work, Adam loves Evelyn, it’s all very messed up, yet very telling of the human condition, especially from the point of view of poor Adam.
MM: Why did you choose to be a part of this production?
BF: Two of our producers — Maggie Greene ‘15 and Katie Premus ‘15 — asked me to be part of this production while planning the proposal late last semester. I have been involved in past independent projects and love the opportunity to collaborate with some of my close friends
AB: I was approached to join this production by my good friend Katie (who directed the piece), and I immediately accepted the role. I had heard of the play and was very excited to give my own personal spin on the role and really explore the world of the play. It also gave me perhaps one of my final opportunities to work and play with my friends, as most of us will be graduating soon. It was an opportunity I wouldn’t have traded for anything.
MM: How do you connect to your character?
BF: It was difficult at first to really connect to any of our characters. Every character in the show has their flaws and is culpable by the end of the show. However, as an actor it is essential to find the humanity and truth in the character. Phillip is easy to write off as a rude, outspoken, unfiltered individual. What makes Phillip so compelling as a character though is his determination to uncover the truth in every situation he is in. He immediately realizes something is different about Evelyn and tries to uncover that truth. He notices Adam’s changes and really tries to get to the root of them. This is something I can very much relate to: No nonsense — tell me the truth.
AB: I connected a lot to Adam. He really just wants to be loved, like anyone does, and so when Evelyn comes along his entire world his thrown upside down as he finally learns what it feels like to have the focus on him 24/7 by another person. I can’t say I personally have been obsessed with another person as he is with Evelyn (no penis tattoos yet..) yet I could relate to how he felt, and his humor.
MM: What are your final thoughts on the Independent Project? Being seniors, where do you see the programming going?
BF: The Independent Project is an amazing opportunity for anyone to partake in. For two weeks, we essentially ran our own theatre company. Very few theatre programs would entrust their students with access to all of the department’s resources, unsupervised for two weeks. This is what makes Independent Project so special. We have the opportunity to create a piece of theatre we are proud and passionate about.
I feel we really raised the bar for the quality of theatre Independent Project students should be producing. I hope future students continue to push the bar forward and create inspiring, cutting-edge, relevant theatre. Never before have I seen such an involved audience. Future shows need to spark conversations like this show did.
AB: As well as being my last independent project, this was also my very first one. I was very proud to have been such an integral part of a very successful one, and I’ve only heard good things of how smoothly things ran this year. I wish next year the very best, and hope they continue the tradition on.
MM: Personally, how do you feel about crossing the line?
BF: We need people to cross the line in order to know where to draw the line in the first place. Luckily, the theatre is a safe space to experiment with that.
AB: Personally, I love the feeling of crossing the line. I love hearing people’s responses of how distraught they felt at the end, and how speechless the play left them. I think it’s important to push the envelope in society and show people things and ideas they may not necessarily want to think about, but perhaps should be thinking about.
MM: Anything else you’d like to tell me about the experience of creating a show in two weeks?
BF: The amount of planning that went into this show lasted much longer than two weeks. Our producers and designers were meeting all throughout the end of last semester and thinking about this project long before the rest of the cast and crew. Having only two weeks to really put this show together was sometimes more of a blessing than a curse. This meant that all aspects of the production had to be planned well in advance and that all of our time was carefully scheduled.
AB: The time frame was very challenging, but I think it’s very good that we had a bit of a head start. We got our scripts in December, and had most of our lines memorized by our very first rehearsal. That helped a lot in Character development, and allowed us all to use our limited time to expanding our characters into what they became rather than having to build that foundation( that we fortunately already had).