A performance this past week at Keene State College questioned the meaning of life through photojournalism, dancing, live music, wonderful songs and symbolic scripts. Written in 1901 by Swedish playwright August Strindberg and adapted by the award-winning playwright Caryl Churchill, “A Dream Play” was presented last Wednesday, and was followed by three more showtimes within the next couple days.
The performance centered around a daughter of the Gods, Agnus, who desires to grab a little more than a glimpse of life down on Earth. What she found was startling; life was complex. As the play got deeper and deeper into the “dream” or subconscious state, Agnus realizes life is not nearly a straight line, but instead a labyrinthine journey.
Junior Justin Park, theater and communications major, played four different parts in the play, including the teacher/preacher. He said Agnus descends down to Earth to see what humans go through during life. “Throughout the show she sees all the beauty of young love… as well as pain and divorce – all of the little heartaches that people have to go through.” This performance captured not only divorce and young love, but also marriage, having a baby, being sent to war, being ill and the amount of time one might have to wait for something to work out in their favor.
There were many unforgettable scenes in the play, first-year Pia Pellicano who is studying psychology admitted. She said, “The beginning was very strong, with the actors crawling out onto the stage and the graphic images behind them. [Also] when they were stabbing the paintings with the bodies on the floor, that was a very powerful image.” Yet, the acting and props were not the only thing drawing the audience in.
The scenery was simple, but beautiful, and their choice of songs could not have been more suitable, said many students in the audience. Pellicano said, “There wasn’t a lot of dialogue, so a lot of the feeling came from the way they did the lighting and the music they were playing. I really thought the live music gave it a really personal touch.” Sarah Heinrich, a first-year safety and applicational life-science, film and English triple major, agreed with Pellicano about the colors and sounds of the play. Heinrich said, “It really helped tell the story.”
Pellicano said, “It was very confusing at first, but as I’m talking to people we’re kind of starting to piece it together.” She then went on to say that the show leaves a lot of room for interpretation; another student agreed as well. Kelsey Walsh, senior dance major, said, “I thought it was really good, the actors did a great job. [I was a] little confused on the plot and everything, but definitely made me think.”
Park said one of the most memorable parts of presenting this performance was being able to discover themselves more and cherish little things everyday. Park said the cast took their roles one step further by sharing about their lives a little every time they met. “We would go to rehearsals and start by saying acts of kindness that we saw or we did. It was just like little small things like I swiped my friend into the DC. Or as big as, ‘Yeah, I just bought someone else’s coffee today.’” He went on to explain why, “[They’re] all these little bits of joy that dull out the disaster and the heartache that happen in the world.”
Park hopes that students who saw the play try to be kind and respectful to one another. “We go through all this pain, but to be nice to one another because we’ve all been through something similar… all in a different personal way.”
And for the meaning of life, well, everyone has their own ideas. Heinrich said people aren’t going to be happy with whatever answer they get about life. So, she said, “There’s really no answer to life.”
Park explained what he believes the answer might be by saying, “The meaning of life is experiencing the good and bad… If there’s this great and incredible love then there’s going to be a heartache. Life is full of extremes and contradictions.”
Kiana Wright can be contacted