With raw emotion and powerful direction, Drums in the Night, the University Theater Program’s spring production, brought a new energy to Colgate’s stage under the inspiration of visiting director Gisela Cardenas.
Coming to Hamilton from New York City by way of Peru, Cardenas achieved her goals for the production. The cast was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the accomplished director, and was certainly up to the challenge she offered them.
“Working with Gisela was amazing,” sais sophomore Kelly McKay. “Every rehearsal was a new challenge. She really pushed us, always encouraging us to explore, to follow our impulses, and to be brave about it. She made it a very physical show, which was tough, but that also made it fun. I think Gisela pulled things out of all of us that we didn’t know we had, and that was the greatest part.”
The director took the work of 20th century playwright Bertolt Brecht and applied her own unique style. In an interview prior to the onset of production, Cardenas revealed her intentions in coming to Colgate.
“I hope to create a wild party,” she said. “Formality? I don’t think that’s theater-not for me.”
Create a wild party she did. Combining clown-like make-up, creative set design and lively performances, she reconstructed Brecht’s story of love amidst the turbulence of post-WWI Germany. The characters were literally acting out the circus-like fantasies of the playwright.
“To me, the play had an underworldly vibe to it,” said first-year audience member Sarah Tilley. “All the lighting was harsh, the set was harsh, the characters were wearing harsh make-up.”
The play centered around Anna Balicke, played by McKay, whose lover Kragler (played by sophomore Sam Torrey) has been missing in action for the past four years. When Kragler miraculously returns to a pregnant and recently engaged Anna, chaos ensues as her family struggles to keep the reunited lovers apart. Combined with the frightening circumstances distressing the country, the plotline leads the audience to the point of exhaustion. Despite the bizarre circumstances that revolve around Anna, her character remains empathetic.
“Anna is a character who is continuously being torn apart, by her parents, her lovers, herself, and the world around her,” McKay said of her role. “She’s pregnant, depressed, heartbroken and faced with a huge decision that she doesn’t want to make. She’s a mess! There’s nothing more fun than playing a mess.”
The cast did appear to be having a good time while performing the play, investing themselves completely in the roles. Rather than drawing the curtain in between set changes, they busily scurried with props in plain view of the audience while lively jazz filtered through the speakers. This innovative technique kept the frenzy of the play focused and consistent.
A strong supporting cast matched the talent presented by McKay and Torrey. First-years Alex Sklyar and Lauren Harries stood out in their especially compelling performances. Other cast members, such as first-years Arianne Templeton and Emily Rawdon and sophomores Lyndsay Werking and Ally Dall, helped contribute to the wild party atmosphere that Cardenas hoped to capture.
“As I get older, I want to be in contact with younger people. I’m not eighteen anymore,” Cardenas said. “I love a theater that picks up that youthful energy. Drums in the Night is about two people in love in a devastated country who find humanity in their love.”
The play tended to become convoluted and a bit too wild, but in the end the humanity of the piece was translated by the actors’ emotions.
Other productions coming up this semester include University Theater’s Springfest, Student Musical Theater Company’s Reefer Madness, and Student Theater’s Pterodactyls.