November 8, 2001

CTA Takes a Look at The American Century

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The Center for Theatre Arts (CTA) will give audiences a serio-comic look at the last fifty years with their production of The American Century. The show is the second Black Box production of the year, under the direction of Rori Bergman ’02.

The show takes place in 1945, with a husband and wife reunited after World War II. They are hopeful, and talk about the future. The show starts as bright and idealistic, until a mysterious stranger appears from the future. He informs them of events that will happen over the next forty years, but harbors his true motives for coming back until the end. The couple tries to hold on to their hopes for their future, despite knowing the inevitability of impending events. Jeff Blagg ’01 plays the Man, and Darra Messing ’04 plays the Woman, and Craig Divino ’04 plays the Stranger.

“There is a great surprise ending, kind of like Memento or The Usual Suspects,” noted Bergman. The ending wasn’t in the original script, but instead came from Bergman’s interpretation of the material. “It’s there already, I think the playwright was just afraid to go that extra step.” Unfortunately, she wouldn’t crack on giving away any secrets.

Still, Bergman did say that she hopes the audience will be in on the joke at the end. “The Stranger can serve as a symbol for the audience, with the hindsight of the last part of the century. However, the naive couple could just as well be a symbol for the audience. Someone from the future could walk through the door and throw us all for a loop. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen to us.”

“It is definitely not a tragedy. It just has some dark humor, with sharp irony. It asks what happens when people are stripped of their hope.” The couple starts as pure and hopeful for the future. When the Stranger comes to tell them everything that will happen, it taints them. The show asks questions about fate and the loss of innocence. The wife tries to cling to her optimistic view of the future, but the husband is much more influenced by what the Stranger has to say. The inevitability of the future is much more tangible for him.

“Darra has the exact right feel for the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, let’s-make-the-most-of-it attitude,” Bergman commented on the cast. “Jeff was great too. His character has the same idealism, but he is affected by the Stranger’s visit in a much deeper way. I couldn’t be happier with the people involved.”

Other crew include Niki Hayes ’04 as sound designer, Alex Casagrande ’03 as lighting designer, Scott Adams ’03 as set designer, and Danielle Esposti ’03 as costume designer. Visiting professor Beth Milles was the advisor for the project, and Resident Professional Teaching Assistant (RPTA) Stephan Wolfort helped with the fight choreography.

The show appealed to Bergman because of its lack of popularity. “I’m able to twist the ending because no one knows anything about it. If it were a more popular show, I would have avoided it because people would have come in with preconceived notions.” She found the play after an extensive search for a Black Box-friendly show (small cast, limited set requirements, less than 45 minutes).

The Black Box shows are designed to give students the opportunity to direct a CTA funded show. There are 2 open spots for each semester. The shows are ideally small budget, relatively small cast productions. Auditions were held for The American Century at the same time as The Rez Sisters and Winter’s Tale, at the beginning of September. “It went really fast for me,” Bergman commented. “I almost had a heart attack a few times, but it worked out fine.”

Archived article by Daniel Fischer