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Time Warp: 'Arcadia' Opens at Juniata

(Posted February 27, 2013)

Kate Clarke, assistant professor of theatre arts

Juniata Theatre Department's production of "Arcadia" opened Feb. 21 in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre. "Arcadia," a 1993 play by Tom Stoppard, is set in an English country estate, alternating between 1809 and the present day, and includes a character cast of intellectuals from varying fields. "Arcadia" will run through March 2, and is directed by Kate Clarke, who talks about the play.

Q: Why was "Arcadia" chosen for the 2012-2013 season?

A: Some of the things that theatre professors think about are, probably first and foremost, what do the students need right now. What's a skill that the students don't have yet? And what would be a really good challenge for them? That's the number one thing I think about when I'm programming the season. The second thing is the balance of comedy and mystery and the way that we're programming for an audience. The third thing is "what do I want to do artistically as a director?" I think of myself last in it, but usually these things come together and I can find something that I'm really excited to do that I know will also be good for the students and the people watching.

Q: What are the play's prominent themes?

A: It's a comedy, it's a romance, and it's about research and science and literature and the quest for knowledge. Basically it goes back and forth between two eras, in 1809 and the present day in this English country house. In the present we've got a bunch of researchers trying to figure out what was going on, whether this literary figure, Lord Byron, was there. There are all these people who are super passionate about knowledge. A central idea of the play is that ideas and knowledge would be completely unimpeded if it weren't for people falling in love with the wrong people and messing everything up.

Q: Is there anything you hope for the audience to take away from "Arcadia?"

A: I hope that people think about it afterwards. I hope people are entertained, and I hope that they're moved emotionally. That's my aim, and actually the play does that really well; it's so well-written. I want people to talk about it afterwards with their friends. There's so much in this play that I think there's something for everyone to connect with. Whether you're a mathematician, if you're a physics person, if you're into literature, there's stuff for you, or if you're just into a love story.

Q: Were there any challenges in putting the play together?

A: First of all, we had to go through the script with a fine-toothed comb and figure out what the heck we were talking about. We did a ton of research. What I did was assigned each cast member a certain thing to research and then they gave presentations. There's just a big learning curve for knowing about English landscaping and going from the Enlightenment to the Romantic movement.
Also it's in a British dialect, so that was a learning curve for a lot of the cast, who'd never really done British accents before. British people speak much faster than Americans; they articulate way more than Americans. We watched Downton Abbey to get those (speech) rhythms. The play takes a lot of stamina and focus, but the cast does a good job with it.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of "Arcadia?"

A: It's sort of like the perfect date night for intellectuals. When I first saw it, it stayed with me for months afterwards. That's the kind of theatre I love to go to, and it's the kind of theatre I like to direct when I can. It's got so much in it that's so beautiful and funny and heartbreaking. It's a great way to spend an evening.

- Kelsey Molseed '14, Juniata Online Journalist

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