By Katie Schmitz
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kalamazoo College’s Festival Playhouse, the Theater Program reproduced one of the first plays ever performed here at K, The Firebugs.
The play first debuted on the K stage in August of 1964, and was directed by Mrs. Nelda K. Balch.
The original article about the 1964 production seems to be very similar to feedback regarding the play’s production today, especially in regards to the strange plot line of The Firebugs.
During the beginning of the play, it is unclear whether the play is supposed to be a drama or a comedy. As the play progresses, however, the audience seems to understand that they are watching a dark comedy, and proceed to regard it as such.
The student reviewing the play in 1964 also noted the audience’s confusion: “Towards the end, the audience finally learned when to laugh. ‘People don’t believe in God any more,’ someone had cracked earlier in the play, ‘—they believe in the Fire Department;’ and no one had seemed to notice the joke. A bit later, then, there were inappropriate giggles at the announcement of a man’s horrible gas-oven suicide.”
Despite the confused audience, the reviewer went on to say that “The Festival Playhouse has been successfully launched.”
It is safe to say that the 2014 production of The Firebugs will also be regarded as a success for the Festival Playhouse for years to come.