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The World is My Oyster, and I am the Pearl: Peer Gynt at Festival Playhouse

A scene from PEER GYNT (photo by Emily Salswedel ’16)

It’s grand finale time for Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College’s golden anniversary. To close its 50th season, Festival Playhouse presents Colin Teevan’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, Thursday through Sunday, May 15-18, in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse.

Guest Director Todd Espeland has set the play in a contemporary punk rock club, with an “in-your face” attitude still capable of shocking a 21st century audience. (Peer Gynt contains mature subject matter and language, and some of the material may not be suitable for children.)

“I selected this modern adaptation because I felt that the updating of the language and situations would make the message and story connect more to our students,” says Espeland. “The roughness of the language, modernizing Peer’s adventures by making him a human trafficker, and its references to the way we idolize TV celebrities, brings Ibsen’s message into the 21st century while still keeping the heart of the fairy tale.

“As human beings, each of us must ask ourselves who we are, what we believe, and to whom we have obligations,” Espeland adds. “This play inverts the usual paradigm of characters that look inward for answers: Peer looks outward to the entire world to serve him. His duty toward himself is to manipulate others to fulfill his needs, regardless of the suffering his manipulations impose on others.”

Dramaturg David Landskroener ’14 comments: “Audiences will be struck by this play’s denouncement of pride and self-interest. The ever-increasing modern societal message is that everything is about ’me,’ which this adaptation deconstructs in an even more timely and resonant fashion through references to reality TV.”

Peer constantly changes his persona to suit the occasion at hand: he’ll do and say anything to get what he wants. Kyle Lampar ’17, who plays the title role, describes his character as “vulgar, carefree, and unapologetic…but behind that persona of tough teenage angst, there’s a fragile individual who only wishes to fulfill his dreams.”

The design team includes Theatre Arts Professor and Scenic Designer Lanford J. Potts, Costume Designer Elaine Kauffman, Lighting Designer Katie Anderson ’15, and Sound Designer Lindsay Worthington ’17.

The show opens Thursday, May 15 at 7:30pm (which is “pay-what-you-can” night), and runs Friday and Saturday, May 16-17, at 8pm, and Sunday, May 18, at 2pm. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors, and $15 for other adults and may be purchased at the door. To make reservations, please call 269.337.7333 or visit the website for more information. Note: Thursday’s performance will be followed by the golden anniversary’s final alumni talk back, led by Kristen Chesak ’94, managing director of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre.

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