The Academy Players have put on a performance starring faculty and staff members at Fairfield for the fourth year in a row. This year’s show, “Life of Riley,”written by Alan Ayckbourn, was performed in the Wien Black Box Theatre in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.
The show’s cast included Dr. Jerelyn Johnson, associate professor of modern languages and literature, Dr. Dennis Keenan, professor of philosophy, Dr. Donald Gibson, dean of the Charles F. Dolan School of Business and professor of management, Dr. Shawn Rafalski, associate professor of mathematics, Andrea Macadam, associate professor of mathematics, Dr. Anna-Maria Aksan, assistant professor of economics and Dawn DeBiase, assistant dean of the Dolan School of Business.
The show was performed this past Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Each performance was followed by a discussion led by a faculty member about the educational value of the show.
The Academy Players bring back an old Jesuit tradition of teaching through their performances. This year’s show, “Life of Riley,” taught about the “challenge of interpersonal relationships, especially in marriage” as explained by Rafalski, who played Simeon, one of the main characters.
Rafalski added, “Each of the three couples exhibit issues and conflicts in their relationships in different ways. The play is asking the audience whether people can overcome obstacles.”
Freshman Maria Cardone believed that the play succeeded in instructing the audience. The moral of the story, according to Cardone, was to “stay faithful.”
The show is primarily about a school teacher named George Riley who is diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. Although this titular character never actually appears in the play, the other main characters, namely Colin, Kathryn, Tamsin, Jack, Monica and Simeon, discuss him at length. Riley’s diagnosis wreaks havoc on the lives of his closest friends and calls all of their romantic relationships into question.
When asked about the student response to the play Rafalski stated, “The students that I talk to really enjoy it as an experience. A lot are surprised to find that it’s not what they were expecting, in a good way.
The expectation is that it’ll be like a movie – passive. But in a theater, with a group, it is a very active experience. You’re right there, totally absorbed.”
Rafalski seemed to hit the nail on the head. Cardone reported that the show was “Good and funny. I have Dr. Keenan for philosophy, so it was really interesting to see the professors out of class.” Promised by her professor that the show would be funny, Cardone was not disappointed.
When Rafalski was asked about the best part of his acting experience, after a reflective pause, he responded: “There are two things. The first is being a part of a community of amateur actors who are putting together a performance for the public.
The second is having the audience be a part of that performance. I’m so pleased that so many faculty, staff and members of the Fairfield community come out to see the production.”