Thursday, February 27, 2020

MSU students experiment with performing arts in “Thus With a Kiss I Die”

February 23, 2018
<p>Actors in "Thus With a Kiss I Die" portray Romeo and Juliet in the fictitious Jekyll University's production of Shakespeare's play. Set in the American south in 1958, the interracial casting creates tension at the university and mayhem ensues. (Left to right) Evan Phillips, Raied Jawhari and Jamie Lien (Photo by Teriah Fleming)</p>

Actors in "Thus With a Kiss I Die" portray Romeo and Juliet in the fictitious Jekyll University's production of Shakespeare's play. Set in the American south in 1958, the interracial casting creates tension at the university and mayhem ensues. (Left to right) Evan Phillips, Raied Jawhari and Jamie Lien (Photo by Teriah Fleming)

“Thus With a Kiss I Die” showcases an immersive theatre project that brings audiences toe to toe with actors. 

Attendees are guided through the different rooms of the Auditorium, free to follow different characters they feel drawn to.

The show takes place in 1958 at a southern university as integration is starting. A black Romeo and a white Juliet are cast in the university’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”. Tensions are high and characters’ have numerous clashes over viewpoints.

Evan Phillips, a theatre senior at MSU, is Romeo at the epicenter of many of the show’s conflicts. Yelling, fighting, spitting, many of the other characters throw whatever they have at Phillips’ character throughout the show.

“It’s difficult to go to that emotional place, to feel all of the pressure of the character, what he’s going through at the time,” Phillips said. “I hope that by seeing the show people will start to realize that a lot of the issues that we’ve dealt with in the past have not gone away today.”

MSU theatre professor and director Robert Roznowski created the idea for “Thus With a Kiss I Die".

The show scheduled during Black History Month lent itself to addressing topics, such as race, sexism, homophobia, prejudice and other biases.

Roznowski said despite the dialogue of the show being for the most part improvised, leaving discretion to the actors wasn’t difficult.

Creating a giant spreadsheet of where the characters need to be minute by minute, Roznowski, along with his assistant directors created a backbone for the show and critiqued actors’ work in rehearsals.

“It’s a whole different kind of acting. It’s a whole different kind of design’” Roznowski said. “There’s an intimacy and immediacy that is unlike anything they’ve ever had to experience so this form of theatre is really exciting and I wanted them to experience it.”

MSU theatre freshmen Kayla Katona’s character is a tenacious reporter who juxtaposes the primarily conservative cast with an unwelcome liberal perspective. Katona said the other characters mock her role in storytelling and tell her no one is listening.

“That's exactly why I need to write it,’” Katona said. “I need to write not what they want to hear, but what they need hear, what they need to read to make them think.”

Roznowski said he hopes the show make audiences reflect on the issues of 1958. He said he would like to see attendees observe these horrible behaviors and see that society has become a bit more tolerant, but still has a long way to go.

“I think that what we’re trying to show is that issues and things that they were experiencing back then, we’re still experiencing now,” Roznowski said. “I think it’s about making some changes or taking some ownership of making the world a better place.”

Tickets for the show are $17 for the public and $12 for students. Tickets are available at the MSU Auditorium and the Wharton Center Box Office, 1-800-WHARTON or whartoncenter.com.

SHOWTIMES: MSU AUDITORIUM

Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at 2 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at 8 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 at 2 p.m.

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