(Posted October 19, 2015)

The Juniata College Theatre Department stages "The Samuel Becket Circus" at 8 p.m., Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 29-31, in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Arts.
The Juniata College Theatre Department stages "The Samuel Becket Circus" at 8 p.m., Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 29-31, in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Arts.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The black comedy of playwright Samuel Beckett, whose works grapple with themes of mortality and the human condition, will be reimagined with vaudevillian flair by the Juniata College Theatre Department in "The Samuel Becket Circus" at 8 p.m., Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 29-31, in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Arts.

The Juniata theatre program uses a "Pay What You Can" ticket plan. To make reservations, go to Juniata's Tixato.com account. Reservations are free. Patrons can pick up tickets and, then, "Pay What You Can." The recommended ticket price is $10, but patrons are also welcome to pay nothing -- or $100. Patrons should pay what they can afford or whatever they believe the work is worth.

A protégé of James Joyce, Beckett, who received the 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature, is known for his dark humor and stream-of-consciousness prose and text. "He liked to work with themes of death, alienation, futility, things like that," says Kate Clarke, assistant professor of theater at Juniata. "Humor comes out of those things, because you have to laugh if you don't want to cry."

Clarke, co-director of "Samuel Beckett Circus," recognized in Beckett's work an opportunity to refine valuable skills in her student actors. "Beckett worked with language in a way that isn't entirely natural," Clarke explains. "It's technically some of the most difficult material I've ever worked with. I'm always looking for something to challenge students, and Beckett is a major cultural force in the world, and in theatre."

The production features a colorful multimedia display, including aerial and acrobatics and live-feed projectors displayed on a variety of surfaces. "His plays often live in a surreal dream logic," says Clarke. "Nothing is going to look normal."

"He liked to work with themes of death, alienation, futility, things like that. Humor comes out of those things, because you have to laugh if you don't want to cry."

Kate Clarke, assistant professor of theater at Juniata

"Beckett was interested in vaudeville. There are a parts of the show that have sort of Laurel and Hardy-style humor. It will spiral in on itself towards a darker center," says Clarke. "We're using some of Beckett's prose, from letters and novels he's written. Pieces and artifacts from those will serve as background."

Nathan Dryden, co-director of the production and a member of the Juniata Visiting Artists Collective, is charged with getting students up to "swing." Dryden, an acclaimed aerialist, is preparing students to perform with two trapezes and a lyra, an aerial hoop swing.

Dryden, who has worked with Juniata theatre productions since 2006, has a background in performance art and an M.F.A. in fine art. Based out of Seattle, Dryden arrived at the college in August and will stay through October.

Performers in Beckett plays often need to have an auctioneer's facility with fast speech. Clarke, whose specialties are voice and speech, says that preparing for Samuel Beckett Circus resembles "going to the gym for your mouth," Clarke explains.

"We basically have split the cast," Clarke says. "Some things will be totally ensemble, but we sort of have a band, and then a loose group of people who are acrobats."

Beckett's plays often address death and dying, and the limbo in between, but the Juniata production seeks to honor Beckett's vision while lightening the mood by including live music, circus-like acrobatics and film. "There's going to be a lot to enjoy, even if you aren't looking for an evening of thinking about your own mortality," says Clarke. "I don't think you'll see anything like this anywhere else."

The cast and crew for "Samuel Beckett Circus" are as follows:

Cast: Tzipora Crandell, a sophomore from Needham, Mass.; Lauren Dobbs, a junior from Hillsborough, N.C.; Alex Hanbury, a senior from Newington, Conn.; Julia Laplante, a senior from State College, Pa.; DeMauray McKiever, a sophomore from Petersburg, Va.; Jamison Monella, a senior from Morrisdale, Pa.; Alyssa Newberg, a senior from Rockville, Md.; Christine Reilly, a sophomore from Nashua, N.H.; and Holly Souchack, a senior from New Rochelle, N.Y..

Crew: Rachel Cline, a junior from Cleveland, Ohio; Rina Kirsch, a freshman from Middleborough, Mass.; Jacob Sinclair, a senior from Newbern, N.C.; Ryan Gabriel, a senior from Milton, N.Y.; Robert Torro, a sophomore from Houston, Texas; Eric Merril, a senior from Rockaway, N.J.; Sean Collins, a senior from Baltimore, Md.; Alex McLemore, a senior from Phoenixville, Pa.; Katie Landis, a senior from Wyomissing, Pa.; Carissa Kelly, a senior from Rochester, N.Y.; Connor Hunter-Kysor, a senior from Huntingdon, Pa.; Jonathan Smeal, a senior from Punxsutawney, Pa.; Xiaoyang Yang, a senior from Chengdu, China; Devin Kos, a junior from Bellefonte, Pa.; Ben Fowler, a senior from Reedsville, Pa.; Bryan Gregory, a senior from Glen Mills, Pa.; Steven Stroup, a junior from Bedford, Pa.; Frank Marin, a senior from Whitestone, N.Y.; Devin Apple, a senior from Elizabethtown, Pa.; Nick Gray, a sophomore from Osceola Mills, Pa.; Joshua Trone, a sophomore from Aliquippa, Pa.; Timothy Fox, a sophomore from Camp Hill, Pa.; Dustin Shuey, a sophomore from Philipsburg, Pa.; Quinn Person, a freshman from Las Vegas, Nev.; Stephan Ash, a freshman from Sacramento, Calif.; Doriana Hyman, a senior from Port Washington, N.Y.; Ethan Abe, a junior from Alexandria, Va.; Jennifer Dupee, a senior from Flanders, N.J.; Scott Fennel, a sophomore from Ligonier, Pa.; Hannah Miller, a senior from Danville, Pa.; Kaitlyn Lewis, a senior from Lancaster, Pa.; Anisah Pasquale, a freshman from Beavertown, Pa.; Lewis Boob, a sophomore from Altoona, Pa.; Hunter Phillips, a senior from Funkstown, Md.; Jasmine Assad, a senior from Lambertville, N.J.; Eliot Turoff, a junior from Sarasota, Fla.; and Samantha Acri, a sophomore from Harrisburg, Pa.

By Tyler Ayres

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.