Bradley’s Department of Theater Arts opened its second production of the Fall 2017 season, a performance which consists of various short plays, all authored by playwright David Ives.
“English Made Simple,” the production’s titular short play, follows Jack and Jill, a couple that endures a night of comedic revelations. The audience members become voyeurs to the characters’ thoughts and actions – courtesy of an onstage English professor who guides viewers through the experience.
Scott Kanoff, chairperson and professor for Bradley’s department of theater arts, said he plans on using this production as an educational opportunity for the community.
“Theater is a great medium of language,” Kanoff said. “Our culture’s so visual, it’s always so interesting to see how audiences – young audiences especially – respond to the challenge of the spoken word. And these plays are so intricate in their use of language and their explosion of language.”
Alongside “English Made Simple” are a collection of Ives’s most popular works. “Time Flies,” follows the comedic existential crisis of anthropomorphic mayflies who must cope with a difficult truth – their lifespan is only 24 hours.
“Variations on the Death of Trotsky” displays a macabre collection of different ways in which Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky meets his grim demise.
“The Universal Language” follows a con artist named Don Finninneganegan and his quest to scam people out of their money by teaching them a made-up language and the interesting developments that come when a woman named Dawn enrolls in his class.
With a production consisting of eight short-form plays, the cast and crew are tasked with tackling a more idiosyncratic beast. Comprised mostly of students, Kanoff said the goal of having fun as well as an educational experience is yet another objective for Bradley’s theater department.
“These are very much curricular kind of production,” Kanoff said. “Scheduling all of that is challenging, and it’s another reason we chose to do short-form plays. We wanted to give these students a chance to get right in there … The stage managers learn how to organize, schedule and run a production, even though it’s a ten-minute production. They learn how to do a small version of it.”
Emma Murphy, the production’s stage manager, sat on the frontlines as rehearsals unfolded. She said despite the variety of the eight short plays, the boon for everyone involved was finding the sense of an aggregated theme.
“The plays are so different, and they all have so many different storylines and characters that, at first glance, you don’t really see a huge comparison between all eight of them,” Murphy said. “But finding that piece of truth that sort of runs through all eight plays … they sort of found all those bits and pieces of the story in their own scripts and brought that to the overall play as a whole.”
“English Made Simple and Other Short Plays” is directed by Dan Matisa, and will be shown in the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19. Tickets are $5 for students.