Good versus evil in exotic Szechuan

Samantha Garvey, Contributor Ω

Trying to achieve economic success while maintaining a strong moral ethic is a theme explored in the TRU’s Actor’s Workshop Theatre’s (AWT) next show, The Good Soul of Szechuan.

Directed by Heidi Verwey, this Bertolt Brecht drama is the second of AWT’s series and runs Nov. 22 to 24, Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

Brittany McCarthy plays the main character, Shen Te, as well as her alter ego, Shui Ta. The two characters represent the dichotomy of good and evil.

“It really is hard,” McCarthy said. “The interludes between being Shen Te to changing into Shui Ta are very short, so there’s very little time to change mindsets.”

She said she tries to find the reasons for the actions and behaviour of each personality and tries to relate it to the audience.

Dan Ondang plays Wang, a water carrier who tries to please the gods. He said he can relate to his character in trying to accomplish things that are actually out of his control.

Both Ondang and McCarthy are fourth-year theatre arts students, but the cast is made up of a much more diverse group.

“There are first-year theatre students, English students and international students,” said Nick Gulycz, a third-year theatre arts student who will play the character Yang.

Verwey’s own daughter, nine-year-old Emma, is playing the role of ‘the boy.’

“I actually put my life’s blood into the show,” Verwey said.

Overall, there are 28 cast-members, which is huge according to Verwey.

“I love it,” she said, adding that her first directing jobs were community theatre shows that had thousands of actors, a handful of children and even a few dogs.

“I like big messy shows. The more people, the more chaos. It’s fun.”

The play was written by Bertolt Brecht, a prominent German playwright who had never actually been to Szechuan. Verwey said she chose the show partly because it is a cultural show set in an exotic place.

“I did want to make a statement about internationalism,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re from. Half the people [in the play] are from an exotic place.”

“Because it’s set in an exotic place, it could be anywhere,” Gulycz added.

The series of plays of the Actor’s Workshop Theatre every year are chosen by the directors. Verwey said she wanted to try an epic play, one that focuses more on social problems and activism, rather than a play that only manipulates human emotion.

Auditions for the show were only five weeks ago. Since then, a set has been built, props made, lighting designed and lines and actions memorized. As well as taking five classes and starring in the show, McCarthy was also the head painter in building the complicated, structural set.

McCarthy, Ondang and Gulycz all hope to act professionally after graduation.

Although the show is a drama, there will be a bit of everything, the show as an organism as complex as a human being.

“You won’t feel depressed by the end,” McCarthy said. “Some parts we are hoping for laughs.”

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