March 2012 Archives
Last week, the Department of Theatre and Dance of Concordia University, St. Paul gave students a show they would not soon forget. The play was set in both 1809 and present day England around a single dining room table in "a very large country house in Derbyshire", and while time periods stayed separated at first, storylines, relationships, ideas, characters, props, and scenes began to intertwine leaving audiences mesmerized and on the edge of their seats. The plot, or the many plots, focuses on what actually happened in 1809 to a sir Ezra
Chater, what Hannah Jarvis and Bernard Nightingale think happened, and how this all affects today and the future of humankind as time dwindles down into nothing. The student director, Mina Souvannasoth, noted that the play would be "a rom-com for nerds", but the romance was unpredictable as the play centered on humor from the start with the first line being the question, "Septimus, what is carnal embrace?" spoken by a thirteen year old girl, Thomasina Coverly, to her twenty-two year old tutor, Septimus Hodge, who was well experienced in the act. The romance was yet to be unmistakably uncovered in the last scene where all theories and truths came to a conclusion, all was laid on the table, and all was left for the audience to interpret as they willed.
It seemed that there was not a single academic discipline that was left untouched within the play: accounting, art, science, math, history, literature, philosophy, religion, social and psychological sciences, Latin, music, archaeology, landscaping, culinary arts, informatics, rhetoric, and many more were at least touched upon. While other audience members laughed out of sheer politeness, well-rounded students of higher learning could appreciate the use of over-the-top humor filled with scholarly wit and charm. While the argument between characters centered on science and math talking about reiterated algorithms or Newtonian theories, the play caused audience members to recall religious beliefs using particular trigger props or phrases.
Although in the midst of discussing sexual congress, characters say "Good God!" and hosts of the house are referred to as Lord and Ladyship. Perhaps it is far-fetched, but the usage of an apple within the play that is given to a female of the present time and bitten by a male in 1809 could symbolize the association of the fruit in the Christian creation story in Genesis 3 which leads to what some would refer to as the first sin and the fall of humankind causing their separation from God. The apple is bitten in the play by Septimus Hodge, the tutor, as he shares his knowledge with his student, and the fruit which
is bitten in the creation story comes from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Also, throughout the play the characters refer to activities taking place in the garden outside the house which could once again refer to the separation between humankind and God in the Fall when Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden according the Christian Bible. And, while it is not a symbol of Christianity or religion necessarily, the use of the tortoise throughout the show could represent longevity and the passage of time which is used to connect both present and 1809 scenes in the chaos of it all. The idea that the characters are discussing the Chaos theory of course could relate to the first creation story of Greek Mythology which states that "In the beginning there was only chaos." So, while the discussion is science based, again and again audience members are drawn to reflect on both religious and scientific aspects of life and death.
Watching and evaluating Arcadia has truly helped me recognize how important every detail is in theater and in life; how one thing, that can seem so small, can mean so much for future historians, for the future of mankind, or for a deeper understanding of the play. It reminded me why I love history, and why I hate it. Sometimes everything (college, life, death, relationships, knowledge) seems trivial, but in the end whether or not life is chaos does not matter. What matters is life, and how it is lived. Not in the sense of rules or laws, but in relationships, with people, without people, in love, without love, full of adventure, full of hope, full of pride. The life of one person is only as meaningful as that person orothers say it to be, so I as an individual have the responsibility to make my life meaningful to me in all that I
do and to remember to take time to live and just be. While it is great to get things done in school, work, or life in general, the process of it all is where life takes place.
- Pictures from Mina Souvannasoth