Behind the Scenes

By Tenzin Tsephel
“Plays aren’t there to teach us lessons. Plays are there to give us experiences,” says Kenneth Hill, a theater professor at Ripon College, in reference to the new play he will be directing this fall semester. The play Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang will be showing on campus October 4th, 5th, and 7th. Shows are free and begin at 7:30 p.m., with an extra showing at 2:00 p.m. on October 7.

“It’s a story about a brother and his adopted sister who live in this big farmhouse in Pennsylvania. They took care of the parents, while the other sister went off and became a big movie star…She comes back one weekend with her young boy toy, Spike, from Hollywood and then all hell breaks loose,” Hill said.

In short, the play features siblings, all in their fifties, who are figuring out their lives. It is described as humorous and is only appropriate for mature adults, “if you like to laugh, that would be good. Like I said, there’s some mature content because there’s one character, Spike, who runs around in his underwear on the stage” Hill says.

He further adds that there will be mature language that would also not be suitable for young children.

Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike will be a unique play for Hill to direct because he has never directed a play by Christopher Durang before. Hill states that this specific play will be a Chekhov play, “Anton Chekhov was a famous Russian playwright, and he wrote ‘Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters.’ So what Durang does is he says ‘I took Chekhov and I put it in a blender.’ So he took all these ideas from Chekhov’s play and his characters and put them in a modern situation,” Hill said.

This specific play is chosen for Ripon College because it is undeniably unique. Hill mentions the importance of showing different kinds of plays to the community so that we can avoid just merely focusing on musicals and Shakespeare–it’s good to have a variety.

When watching, Hill hints that the language used in the play will be the most entertaining. “I think the language is really, really good…different plays have different dialogue. This is a witty play and it has a lot of topical references.”

Although the play can be enjoyable to direct, Hill said there are small complications that come with it, “there is this one very long comic monologue. Vanya has one that goes on for three pages, and so the actors have a lot to memorize. They’re not long tedious things–they’re very funny things,” Hill said.

Furthermore, the play will involve numerous costume changes, including a scene where the characters attend a costume party and how there are these small technical things that will be challenging to overcome, but not impossible. Hill said the importance will lie within the actors and their job of turning this play into a reality and really inhabiting their assigned characters.