Dreaming Up A Dream Play

By Annah Freudenburg, Staff Writer

Alexander Ross ''17 as The Officer and Emma Franzel ''17 as The Daughter (Photo by Lanny Potts)

This year Kalamazoo College’s Festival Playhouse celebrates its 50th anniversary. To commemorate 50 years of theatrical excellence and success, the Theater Department has lined up a wide array of productions. Leading this impressive list is August Strindberg’s A Dream Play.

“All of the plays, as well as A Dream Play, really hearken back to the goals of Festival Playhouse, which is to do theater that is thoughtful – theater that is provocative.” said Director Dr. Ed Menta,

A Dream Play is unique because, in the words of Menta, it is more of a poem than a play.

“It’s very languid and beautiful,” explained Assistant Director Michael Wecht, ’14. “There’s a lot of poetry in terms of the way things are described.”

The play follows a nonlinear structure, which includes many sporadic changes of location and nonconsecutive events. This presents a challenge.

“We have to have the mood of a dream, but there also has to be some arc of a story, otherwise the audience will stop listening,” said Menta.

Other challenges included the play’s overall magnitude. A cast of seventeen will be playing more than thirty characters, and the usual three-hour production had to be edited down to less than ninety minutes with no intermission.  

“It’s a screenplay,” Menta said in regards to the play’s length. “It’s a modern type of storytelling that we’re very used to now in the cinema.”

Capturing the ethereal nature of a dream requires a certain deviation from realism.

 “It’s been liberating to try to direct in terms of imagery rather than ‘what makes sense’ or ‘why would my character do this,’” said Menta.

Even the musical scoring of the play is dreamlike. Composer and Music Producer David M. Landskroener ’14, was given the task of creating live musical accompaniment for A Dream Play. Approaching this creative mission required some leniency of conventional thinking.

“There are a lot of sounds you wouldn’t hear in a realistic play,” he said. “It makes sense in a dream because nothing makes sense in a dream.”

Using music, choreography, and lighting design reflectively, all of the senses are immersed and it becomes as if the audience really is witnessing a dream. Assistant Director, Wecht, said that in order to achieve this effect, “Everything has to be bigger.”

A Dream Play is certainly appropriate for the Festival Playhouse’s 50th Anniversary because it defies replication. Moreover, it complements the fleeting nature of an anniversary.

“It’s a play that [students] will probably never have a chance to see ever again in their lifetime because it is so rarely done,” concluded Wecht.

A Dream Play will be performed Nov. 7-10 in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse.