The Miami Theatre Players will be coming alive as this semester’s production, “The Wild Party” takes the stage.
The Andrew Lippa musical, set in the 1920s, details the abusive relationship between Vaudeville performers Queenie and Burrs before, during and after the play’s focal point: a party created to stir up trouble. Between several storylines simultaneously playing out and the allure of sensual masochism, the show is one rife with complexities, choices and the struggle for control.
“I think one of the things that attracted me to this show in the first place was that it’s not like something Miami has done before,” Kevin Fagan, a third-year digital media management and advertising and promotions double-major and the production’s assistant director, said. “But if you look at the shows we’ve done in the past, it builds up to it. Every show every semester, we do something more complicated or more serious or more musical, so there’s a build we go through. It was a big step but it was on a path we’ve already been following. All our other shows had some darkness to it.”
Fourth-year theater performance and sociology double-major Stephen Kalogeras said tapping into his character, Burrs, was interesting because he’s never had to play the antagonist in a production before. After describing Burrs as a violent, rough, misunderstood, dark person and himself as anything but, Kalogeras said he had to search for emotions he usually doesn’t feel and “just go for it.”
Director and third-year vocal jazz studies major Casey Richards said Miami’s version of the production replaces some of the show’s explicit content with implications performed through song and dance to convey the characters’ emotions and struggles.
“I think anything about this production that could have been controversial, the actors have handled well. It does touch upon some darker issues like rape and substance abuse and it’s something that will have to be explicitly said before the show, but I think people are going to take things the way they are and I have no control over that,” Richards said. “This is definitely a show that pushes the boundaries and I think New Paltz can handle it.”
Fourth-year public relations major Samantha Perkins plays leading lady Queenie and said the show’s adult content is necessary and exists to bring audience members out of their comfort zone.
“As actors, we’re not onstage to make people feel comfortable, we’re on the stage to make people anything but,” she said. “To tell the story and make the points the show is trying to make, there are necessary moments. Our job as performers is to make people think.”
Richards said the show on the whole is about a struggle for control between the characters, some of whom are the abuser and others who are being abused in their relationships. She said the production pedals the lesson that we don’t have control over other people, materialized in the notion that whenever a character tries to exercise their control over another character, things start falling apart.
Although the show exposes the audience to explicit and adult material, the production team has taken the necessary precautions to ensure the audience are aware that the musical’s content should not be taken lightly, from placing trigger warnings in the show’s program to printing explicit content signs on promotional posters.
However disturbing the show’s content is, Kalogeras said those involved in the show neither condone nor glorify its material, and that by bringing these issues to the stage, Miami will be shedding light on these dark corners.
“These people aren’t characters, they’re people and as over the top as they are, they’re real people,” he said. “You can’t sugar coat it and say they’re not there, because they are there and these things do happen. Art imitates life and you have to put it out there.”
“The Wild Party” will run from Thursday, April 10 through Saturday, April 12 at 8 p.m. in Studley Theatre.