This past weekend, the University Theater took on the challenge of putting on Erin Courtney’s play, A Map of Virtue. Productions were in Brehmer Theater on March 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. with an additional 2 p.m. showing on March 6.
A Map of Virtue (MAP) pushes the boundaries of theater by combining plot with interviews and a birdsong, punctuated by the sound of birds and the beating of a drum. The play is broken into fourteen parallel acts, starting at one and moving to seven until descending back to one again. The combination of the innovative structure and the variety of forms of theater created a unique narrative about interactions with evil.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The cast members played their characters very, very well and made a very deep commentary easy to follow,” first-year Mark Sibold said.
Written by Erin Courtney, the play was first performed off-Broadway in 2012. The director of Colgate’s rendition, Associate Professor of English in the University Theater April Sweeney, was drawn to Courtney’s play early on.
“I was trying to choose between three plays during the summer and I happened to stumble across Map at Drama Bookshop. While I had seen some of Erin’s plays in the past … I had never read a play of hers. I wondered how they were written. So I just picked it up and read it straight through. About three days later I read it again – and then again. I just kept thinking about it. I found it strangely compelling and I thought if I am to really understand it, find out what it is about, I have to make it. I also thought it would be great material to work on with our students,” Sweeney said.
The small cast of students in the play each brought a unique take on their respective characters. The play starred first-years Dawson Highland, Kit Keane and Fjordi Mulla, sophomores Tyler Maxie and Curtis Mitchell and seniors Tanner Holley and Allison Spanyer.
“I really liked it, I thought the actors were very into their parts which made the play very convincing,” first-year Mara Devia said.
Aside from bringing their characters to life, the students involved with the play were able to confront the major themes of the play head-on. For the performers, the rehearsal and performance process provided an opportunity to pose questions about love, evil, intimacy
“I have enjoyed our investigations in and around the text. We have gone to some interesting, funny and also dangerous spaces. It is very compelling to see such young performers engaging with their full being in a theatrical space, laying bare who they are for and with each other,” Sweeney said.
A Map of Virtue provides an interesting investigation of the human psyche, and the University Theater provides Colgate students with the opportunity to take part in this investigation. Yet the question more critical than the ones posed by the play becomes, will Colgate students take advantage of this opportunity by attending a performance?
“The biggest challenge here at Colgate is always to get people to come to see the work the students do. Just getting them in the theater – really it is huge,” Sweeney said.
With shows every semester, University Theater gives Colgate students a space outside the classroom to explore important ideas. Beyond just allowing a select few performers to explore these ideas, University Theater also gives non-performance inclined Colgate students the opportunity to work through complex ideas by nature of witnessing the performances.