This weekend is Family Weekend at Colgate, and we all know what that means. Families will come from far and wide to cheer on the football team, stroll along the Willow Path, tap their toes to the Colgate 13 and the Swinging ‘Gates, and sit back and relax at Little Brehmer Theater to watch…Terrorism? That’s right, this year’s Family Weekend play is entitled Terrorism: A Play by the Presnyakov Brothers. It may not sound like the best way to kick back and enjoy a weekend with Mom and Dad, but wait a moment before dismissing the play based solely on its politically charged title. A show filled with insight and social commentary, Terrorism may well be the highlight of this year’s Family Weekend experience.
Oleg and Vladimir Presnyakov, known in the world of theater as the Presnyakov Brothers, are the writers behind Terrorism. The Presnyakov brothers have written more than ten plays, and together founded the Youth Theater program at M. Gorky Urals State University in Yekaterinburg, Siberia. They are renowned in Russia for their use of everyday language and themes with considerable societal resonance, as well as dark, often bitter, humor. Terrorism is their best known play; it arrived in the United States in an off-Broadway New York theater in 2005, after premiering at the Moscow Art Theater three years earlier.
Though the title of the play inevitably brings one’s mind to the current state of American politics and the war on terror, Oleg and Vladimir Presnyakov wrote the play before the terrorism attacks of September 11, 2001. The play does not comment on terrorism as an isolated act, but rather as fears entrenched in contemporary society. In fact, the storyline consists of six scenes that initially may seem to have little connection. As the play progresses, the audience will come to realize that the Presnyakov brothers are looking at terrorism in a new light. Terrorism in these six scenes is present in individual interactions and seemingly “ordinary” cruelties in contrast to the large scale, CNN-style terrorism we are accustomed to in today’s society. And yet the power of the play will transcend cultures and affect the audience here at Colgate living in a post-9/11 American society just as deeply as it did to the Russian audiences for whom it was originally performed.
First-year Conor Tucker, who, like many members of the cast, plays a different character in each scene, comments on the plot as “an amazing look at the idea of terrorism in everyday life.”
“I find it profoundly personal, and people should come to see it because it will open their eyes to the little acts of terrorism they commit every day,” he said.
As stated by the British Theatre Guide prior to a translated performance of Terrorism at the Royal Court Theatre in 2003, “in subtle ways, Terrorism makes very pertinent comments on the nature of the war against terrorism that is currently all too close. It is at its most interesting when it extends this to the kind of neurotic terrorism that can go on inside one’s head with equally terrifying results while a world order is breaking down.”
The crew of Colgate’s production of Terrorism has taken the atmosphere of the play seriously by finding the most effective means of conveying the aspects of psychological terrorism present in the play. For starters, Terrorism is a Little Brehmer production with ally construction. This means that the stage is set up in the center of the theater with the two seating areas across from each other. Though this poses set challenges for the crew, the end goal is to use lighting and set design to convey a mood appropriate for both the underlying heavy elements of the storyline and the Presnyakov brothers’ signature elements of dark humor in theater, as they have been known as “the ambassadors of international absurdity.”
The cast and crew of Colgate’s production of Terrorism include students from a variety of class years and with a variety of acting experience. English professor Adrian Giurgea is the Director of the production.
Though the performance of a potentially controversial play on Family Weekend may seem like an unusual choice, it is a piece of drama that will showcase our students’ more dramatic acting skills that would otherwise go unknown by members of our extended Colgate family.
“Giving my parents a chance to see me perform in my first college play is wonderful,” says Conor Tucker. Tucker’s parents, as well as many other members of the Colgate community, are bound to gain insight into our often-turbulent society from this weekend’s performance of Terrorism, a powerful portrait of society by the Presnyakov brothers.