Paula Vogel’s experimental play utilizes a contemporary version of bunraku puppetry in its haunting deconstruction of an “All-American” family’s road trip to their grandparent’s house for Christmas. Runs at 8 p.m. Jan. 31- Feb. 5 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 5.
Directed by assistant professor in the department of theatre and film studies T. Anthony Marotta, the play takes the audience on an emotionally rocky, and highly theatrical, holiday road-trip with a dysfunctional family. Inspired by Vogel’s brother who passed away in 1988 from AIDS, the play explores the complicated dynamics of a family plagued by loss and broken relationships. Audiences often recognize themselves in way the children poke and irritate each other or the holiday bickering between generations. “It’s a story,” says Marotta, “with accessible characters, moments, ideas, and relationships.”
The production experiments with puppets, shadows, masks, sounds, media, and physical acting techniques such as Japanese butoh dance theatre. “It creates an experience that’s only possible in theatre,” Marotta said. “Not many plays have masks and puppets written in. Usually it’s just goofy puppet plays for kids or academic theatre for actors using masks. Good theatre pays attention to using objects in a meaningful way and invites the audience to use their imaginations.”
The parents, played by MFA acting candidates Mark McManus and Ami Salee, are near the breaking point of their marriage. The oldest child, Rebecca (theatre major Taylor Bahin) teeters on the edge of adulthood. Stephen (theatre and English major Brian Chenard) is an effeminate young boy who cannot understand why his father does not love him. Claire (theatre and advertising major Melanie Sheahan), the lone recipient within the family of their father’s coveted affection, wrestles with brazen desires and self-doubt.
Lukas Takeru Woodyard, the production’s dramaturg, describes the play as “a strange and new experience.” Vogel takes inspiration from playwright Thornton Wilder, and The Long Christmas Ride Home follows this season’s production of Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth.
“Paula Vogel, who’s won both the Pulitzer Prize and Obie Award, is one of America’s most treasured living playwrights,” said David Saltz, head of the department of theatre and film studies. “We’re excited to explore this formally ingenious and psychologically razor-sharp play.”
Man/Narrator – Mark McManus, a second year MFA acting major from Houston, TX
Woman/Narrator – Ami Salee, a second year MFA acting student from Santa Clause, IN
Claire – Melanie Sheahan, a junior theatre and advertising major from Kennesaw, GA
Rebecca – Taylor Bahin, a junior theatre major with a minor in music business from Bethelem, GA
Stephen – Brian Chenard, a sophomore theatre and English major from Cumming, GA
Minister/Ensemble – Jake Berne, a junior theatre and entertainment media studies major from Atlanta, GA
Grandmother/Ensemble – Wynelle Studdard, a senior theatre major from Locust Grove, GA
Grandfather/Ensemble – Drew Manning, a senior theatre and mass media arts major from Marietta, GA
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