Oct. 5-8, Wien Experimental Theatre, Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield University, (203) 254-4010, fairfield.edu
Threedogs awaken in a dark holding cell to find they've been chosen to compete for a coveted job in the K9 unit of the state anti-terrorism service. What are they willing to do and how far will they go?
Brainchild of provocative contemporary Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga, Perpetual Peace has been performed frequently around Europe and Latin America, as nations confront the ugly underside of the so-called War on Terror. Connecticut theatergoers have a chance to see the North American premiere for just four nights at Fairfield University.
Fairfield's Dr. Jerelyn Johnson of the Modern Languages Department translated the play and brought it to director Alistair Highet. In an interview with the Fairfield Weekly, Highet said he believes that "at a university, we should be doing theater work that is intellectually challenging and that people don't ordinarily see." This text incorporates discussion of Kant and Pascal — in the voices ofdogs — alluding to specific texts that are on many course syllabi at the university. "So this show is meant as a teaching tool, and professors are sending their classes, but we also intend it to provoke community discussion of intertwining issues of torture and justice." Each performance will be introduced by a different professor and followed by a talkback led by that scholar, coming from their own disciplines of peace and justice studies, philosophy, politics, and religious studies.
But that's not all. Two of the four actors are also professors at the university — playingdogs. (The Head Dog, running the test on the others, serves ordinarily as the Dean of the Business School at Fairfield.) The other actors are drawn from the Actor's Nucleus theater company that originated at a Benedictine monastery and convent in Bethlehem, Conn.; their backgrounds include professional training from the Actor's Studio and RADA. Former Hollywood actor Dolores Hart is Prioress at this Abbey, and her showbiz connections (including Patricia Neal and Paul Newman) helped her outfit a simple theater there. Novitiates and guests use theater as one way of pursuing the life of labor mixed with contemplation that is required by the Benedictine rules.
Highet was one of the founders of this Actor's Nucleus theater; he now serves as director of communications at Fairfield, and as a psychotherapist in a private practice. Other founders have gone on to work for a hedge fund, run a transcription service, and teach at a Montessori School. The very first production Actor's Nucleus mounted was of Sartre's existential one-act No Exit, in which three souls confront each other in Hell. Highet says, "No Exit was the perfect play for us as actors to explore what it means to be stuck together in a room apart, and to reflect that back to the religious community. Perpetual Peace, in a funny way, repeats that theme: here there are three dogs, locked together, fighting it out."
Staged in Fairfield's black box theater, Perpetual Peace has a soundscape designed to evoke the sense of a highly secured observation area. The actors will be working in bare feet and, yes, collars.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun