New Paltz’s newest play, “Eugenia,” will be taking the American stage for the first time.
The New Paltz Theater Arts Department’s production of play, directed by Anita Gonzalez and composed by Stephen Kitsakos, will run from Thursday, March 1 to Sunday, March 11 in Parker Theatre.
“Eugenia,” written by New Zealand playwright Lorae Parry, was first introduced to Gonzalez four years ago.
“A New Zealand international exchange student [introduced it] in my ‘Race, Gender and Performance’ class when we were doing a unit on gay, lesbian and transgender identities on stage,” Gonzalez said. “Since then, both Stephen Kitsakos and I have taught the play in our classes.”
The play weaves parallel stories around the true history of Eugenia Martelli, a transgender or “passing” woman, in 1916 New Zealand. Characters from the past (Eugenia and her lover, Violet) and the present (Iris, a high school drama teacher) come to terms with their sexual identities.
“Author Lorae Parry skillfully creates episodic scenes that demonstrate how current concerns about gender roles mirror social anxieties of the distant past,” Gonzalez said.
Kitsakos said he wrote an original score for the piano, guitar and flute that was influenced by popular 19th and early 20th century Italian music. His composition was also influenced by the episodic nature of the play.
“The play is … almost cinematic in its juxtaposition of time and space,” Kitsakos said. “Consequently, I composed a series of leitmotifs [a reoccurring theme] for characters and situations to help with the transitions.”
The play’s text also requited the specific arrangement of the song “Bella Ciao.”
“[The song] is a folk song favorite with anarchists sung by Italian partisans in WWII,” Kitsakos said. “Liberation is a common thread throughout the play.”
Second-year theatre arts-performance major Adam Harrison said he recognizes the controversial nature of “Eugenia,” but believes the play transcends that label.
“To me, the play is less about controversy and more about fighting for who you really are and what you want out of life,” Harrison said.
Harrison is playing four different roles, including three characters from 1916 (Finn, Pub Joe and Wallace) and one present day character (Murray).
“Every character has an obstacle — something is in their way of reaching their dreams,” Harrison said. “It’s been a lot of hard and exciting work to find these characters and make them unique individuals.”
Gonzalez said the department season selection committee chose the play. She said the department seeks a cross section of audiences that includes students, faculty and community members.
“The mainstage shows are selected with a genre rotation,” Kitsakos said. “This season we were looking for a contemporary play that dealt with issues of social justice.”
Harrison said he is honored to be able to bring “Eugenia” to audiences.
“I think it’s so important [to address] the mental, physical and emotional obstacles that we all must endure every day, regardless of sexual orientation,” Harrison said.