Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Fringe

Here's the copy of the wonderful article written by BSC English Major Jeremy Burgess for the Birmingham News.

TO THE FRINGE: BSC takes Southern adaptation of Strindberg play to Scotland festival
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

JEREMY BURGESS For The Birmingham News

When Alan Litsey, a theater professor at Birmingham-Southern College penned an adaptation of August Strindberg's 1888 classic "Miss Julie," he chose to set his script in the American South. Now he's getting a chance to bring the South to the other side of the world.

Litsey, along with his ensemble of cast and crew members, left Monday to showcase the world premiere of his adaptation of "Miss Julie" at the world-famous Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Beginning Friday, they will perform the play nine times at the C Soco venue there.

"One of the reasons we chose the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that it's the largest arts festival of its kind," Litsey says. Last year, the festival advertised 28,014 performances of 1,867 shows in 261 venues, a larger tally than the year before. "We are excited to give our students the opportunity to work in that kind of international venue."

Along with Litsey, the BSC Edinburgh contingent includes Kate Jenkins, a recent BSC graduate from Vestavia Hills; Amanda Kramer, a junior from Alabaster; Mac Smith, a sophomore from Auburn; Alex Brouwer, a senior from Fort Payne; Nikki Craft, a senior from Decatur; and Laura Spurgeon, a sophomore from Phenix City. Faculty making the trip are director Michael Flowers, scenic/co-lighting designer and technical director Michael Mielke and co-costume designer Patti J. Manning.

Although Litsey put a great deal of time into the writing of his script, the actual production process was a bit rushed - especially for the students. "The production time is much shorter than that of most plays that we work on at BSC," Kramer says. "I still can't believe that we ran the show in front of an audience after approximately two weeks of rehearsal."

Rehearsing was just one of the tasks the ensemble had to accomplish. Throughout the summer, they've been building sets, designing costumes, and perfecting every piece of the process. Although the students have said that working during the summer is nice because of the absence of schoolwork, it has still been a tremendous task putting this production together.

"It's easy to become overwhelmed by all the responsibility of putting the production on its feet," says Jenkins, who was given the daunting task of playing the title role in "Miss Julie." "But I know that my main job is to explore my character to the fullest extent." That exploration doesn't come easily. Just ask Smith, who was given the role of John, the play's least likable character.

The character "is, essentially, an evil man," Smith says. "(Playing this character) is particularly hard because I have to draw these maniacal feelings from places that I was unaware I had to draw from, and it can be rather frightening. I have to find pieces of my life in this alienated and constant theater life that allow me not to lose myself in the character."

There is one element that each of the actors already knew how to adapt: their Southern backgrounds. Being from the South was an added advantage for each of the actors. Litsey, however, faced the more difficult task of bringing the American South to a play that was originally set in 19th century Sweden.

"I've made my home in the South for over 17 years," Litsey says. "I love the region and, other than my native central California, it's the culture I know best. And, certainly, our company of theater students brings rich, Southern-based experiences to our process. We hope that the play will connect with a diverse audience, at home and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival."

When penning his adaptation of "Miss Julie," Litsey was forced to update not just the region but the time period of the play as well. "`Miss Julie' in its debut was considered controversial, dangerous, edgy," Litsey says. "It's still a great, great play. But what happens if we envision how our 21st century challenges might influence Strindberg's rich, complex world?"

"Miss Julie" won't be finished after the Fringe Festival - the ensemble will be performing the show at Birmingham-Southern on Sept. 18-23. After that, Litsey will take up the role of directing an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" that takes place during the '60s for BSC's fall production.
© 2007 The Birmingham News
© 2007 All Rights Reserved.

No comments: