By Rory Gilchrist
Whenever a prospective student asks me about theatre on campus, I geek out a little.
This semester, I’m directing my second play in conjunction with Chrysostomos, the theatre organization on campus. Well, to be more accurate, I’m directing two plays, two very short plays.
Both plays center on perhaps the greatest dramatic achievement ever, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The first is about three monkeys, locked away, trying to replicate a certain thought experiment on the laws of probability. The second takes the actual language of the Immortal Bard, and pares it down to the bare minimum, while still (hopefully) retaining some of the wit and beauty of the original. The result is a much more comedic interpretation, proving there’s something to laugh about at the very center of all tragedy. All told, both plays will run about half an hour, and they go up during Parent’s Weekend in October. I’m very excited for it, and I look forward to seeing how it all shapes up.
Chrysostomos’ job, then, is supervisory. They secure the funding for a production, ensure there’s a space for performance and rehearsal, and otherwise just generally keep the necessary wheels turning for each of the four (or more) productions that run each year. In terms of artistic direction, it’s all up to the students involved. With great artistic freedom comes great logistical responsibility. It’s a trade-off, sure, but I like being able to make those choices myself. I had sizeable experience in theatre before coming here, and now I’m given the opportunity (and the money) to go in any direction I choose.
I think performing a play is a special thing at St. John’s. For one thing, almost the whole audience is comprised of Johnnies, people who are always searching for the bigger picture in whatever’s being presented to them. I think theatre works best when it starts conversations, starts getting people to think more deeply about the questions any text raises. The Program, too, can provide a backdrop to a performance. By no means would one have to have read Hamlet, as the sophomores do in their Language tutorial, to be entertained by these plays; yet understanding the relationships newer works have to older ones is central to what we do here. The play really is the thing, wherein we’ll catch the conscience of us all. ∗