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Senior Thesis Festival

This past week, the Senior Thesis Festival was presented by the Brandeis Theater Department. Months of hard work for multiple senior theater students came to fruition in a week that showcased multiple different talents – playwriting, acting, directing, singing, dancing, you name it, which culminated in the week of performances in the Merrick Theater at the Spingold Theater Center. Each show was incredibly unique, and was clearly a labor of love for each of the seniors. Two of these shows continue to stand out for me – Rebecca Miller’s ‘13 thesis Amaranthine, an original play by Miller, and Viktoria Lange’s ’13 thesis Eurydice, written by Sarah Ruhl.

           

Amaranthine told the story of the ghost of Anne Boleyn (Miller) on the 500th anniversary of her death. It opens in the year 1536, as Boleyn faces her execution, and then fast forwards to the year 2036, where Charlie Madison, ’15, plays a tour guide leading people in a midnight tour of the Tower of London. In the play, Anne’s ghost returns to the Tower of London as she does every year on the anniversary of her death, to reunite for a day with her brother George (Steven Kline, ’14). However, this year they’re joined by the ghost of Henry Percy (Levi Squier, ’14), Anne’s once-betrothed and love, and the play explores how their relationship ultimately fell apart. The play showed a heart wrenching reliving of the heartbreak that both Anne and Henry went through, with the two of them arguing and fighting, Anne playing games, in a way torturing Henry, and Henry trying to keep up out of his love for her. In the meantime, George makes sarcastic, humorous comments, distracts the lovers, and drinks, which, while comical, is way for him to deal with his guilt and with being a ghost – a guilt caused by his role in the unraveling of Anne and Henry’s relationship. It’s an account of an engrossing and compelling love story, though not one with a happy ending, and of souls trying to ultimately find rest.

Literally, I have nothing bad to say about this show. I saw it three times – and loved it each and every time. Each of the actors did an amazing job; it was captivating, heartbreaking, hilarious, and I still don’t even know how to describe it. Miller, Kline, and Squier were all clearly in tune with the historical figures they portrayed, and the writing itself was amazing – Rebecca should be proud of her thesis.

Lange’s thesis, Eurydice, told the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but from Eurydice’s perspective. In the play, the book-loving Eurydice (Aliza Sotsky, ’15) dies on the same day she marries Orpheus (Jason Dick, ’14), the musician, and ends up in the underworld. Orpheus writes letter after letter to Eurydice, who, while in the underworld, reunites with her father (Ben Winick, ’16), and has to re-learn how to read, write, and even speak after being “dipped in the river” – which makes one forget everything about being alive. Eurydice grows increasingly closer to her father, to the point that when Orpheus ventures to the underworld to rescue her, she has mixed feelings about leaving. Ultimately, she ends up stuck in the underworld, separated from Orpheus, and she dips herself in the river to re-forget him. Her father also dipped himself in the river.

The only thing that prevented me from sobbing through this entire show was the comic relief of the Stones (Sarah Brodsky ’15, Sarah Hines ’15, and Sarah Copel ’15). They portrayed dwellers of the underworld, yelling ad Eurydice and her father for not following the rules and obsessively cleaning rocks. Also, the Nasty Interesting Man (Shota Adamia, ’15), who, as the Lord of the Underworld, rode in on a bicycle, and, while being creepy, was oddly compelling. This show is so heartbreaking, yet so beautiful – Viktoria did an amazing job directing the show that she has been “completely obsessed with” since her sophomore year, incorporating a simple set which really allowed the actors themselves to shine. Many people I talked to afterwards wanted to see this show again, simply because everything about the show was so beautifully done. My only complaint is for myself – I didn’t bring tissues.

I love theater. I think it’s a beautiful form of expression. This past week was a very theater-filled week for me, and, especially thanks to these two shows, I couldn’t be happier. Next year when the Senior Thesis Festival rolls around, even if you’re not a theater buff, try to see one or two shows. You won’t regret it. 

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