‘Rhinoceros’ Invades The Stage

by Nadia Smith

One-horned, two-horned, Asian and African rhinoceroses will be appearing in Little Theater tonight.

For the next couple of weeks viewers will be able to witness ordinary townsfolk transforming into thick-skinned, green-tinged rhinos in Transylvania’s production of Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros.” While this absurdist comedy has its laugh-out-loud moments, Ionesco uses this play to show how easy it is to conform, alluding to the extreme political movements of his time, such as Fascism and Nazism.

“It’s chock full of political and social commentary and meaning for people. … Ionesco was really a visionary, living through World War II in Romania. … This play transcends time; in it you see the effects of World War II, but it also applies now,” said senior Elizabeth Guy, the assistant director for “Rhinoceros.”

This production is being directed by guest director Sullivan White. First-year stage manager Laura Campbell said that White has over 100 productions to her name and has worked in New York, North Carolina, as well as in Louisville and Lexington. White is currently a member of the faculty at Wofford College in South Carolina and will be directing the Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Summerfest production of “Pride and Prejudice.”

Campbell said that she has greatly enjoyed White’s direction.

“Everybody in this room (Little Theater) I’ve seen blossom as an actor. It’s been an amazing experience,” Campbell said.

To show the gradual transformation from human to rhinoceros, the characters don more and more pieces of the rhinoceros costume as the play progresses until they are completely transformed.

Senior Sarah McClelland worked on the costumes for this production and said that each costume captures the nuances of the character that will wear it. McClelland said the experience was both enjoyable and challenging.

“It’s been a mixture of highly creative interpretations as to what a rhinoceros is, inventive use of materials and the devil in the details,” McClelland said.

Sophomore Robin Kunkel, the assistant stage manager for the production, said, “(The costumes are) kind of a morph of human and rhinoceros as opposed to just turning into a rhinoceros and having a bulky suit.”

The actors also underwent physical training to mimic the movements of a rhinoceros.

“There’s a much higher emphasis on the physical aspect of the acting,” Guy said. “Using your whole body to portray this transformation from human to rhinoceros and the way that that conforming happens through the whole body and not just the mind.”

Cast members will use the entire stage and surrounding area to create the illusion of a rhinoceros stampede and other events in the story.

The sets for the production are unique as well. Part of the set will include Astroturf.

“It’s a very unique production, especially the set,” Kunkel said. “I doubt anyone’s done it quite this way before.”

Another unique part of the play will be its underscoring. First-year Alex Yaden has composed all the music for the production, which includes two orchestral pieces and two piano solo works. Yaden is a self-taught musician who hopes to compose for films in the future. He said the play will be the official debut of his music to the public, although he’s been composing for almost five years. The music follows the motion of the play, which begins with chaos and gradually slows down.

Junior Patrick Davis, who plays the lead role of Berenger, said he enjoyed the collaborative process of this production.

“As much as the director has come in and told us what to do, a lot of it we’ve been creating together as a group, an ensemble,” Davis said.

Campbell said the cast and crew have put a lot into this production.

“It’s a lot of work,” Campbell said, “We have put a lot of hours into this but it’s totally worth it. It’s an amazing script.”

“Everyone definitely needs to come see the play,” Davis said. “Both if they’ve seen shows here in the past and if they haven’t seen shows here in the past. This is going to be something completely different than anything that’s happened on (Little’s stage) in years.”

“Rhinoceros” opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Lucille C. Little Theater. Performances will also be held Feb. 19-20 and 25-27 at 7:30 p.m., and on Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.

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