Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
Emily Townsend Co-Editor-in-Chief
“Titus Andronicus,” a play written by William Shakespeare and produced by Kalamazoo College Festival Playhouse, will open on Thursday in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse and run from Nov. 1 to 4.
Shakespeare’s first Roman tragedy was popular at its conception, pulling in Elizabethan crowds to ogle the Bard’s most violent play. Since then many historians have come to believe that Shakespeare could not have written such a play, citing the excessive murder and rape. But contemporary experts find that Titus examines societal complexities.
Kevin Dodd, director and guest artist of K’s version, will focus on the cycle of violence perpetuated in societies, especially when “soldiers return from war.”
“As a nation, we export violence,” Dodd said. “Our production asks the question: when they all come home, what happens then?”
According to a Festival Playhouse release, one of Dodd’s many innovations in the production has been to add a “Chorus of Collateral Damage.”
The chorus is a part of a 27-person cast and brings a contemporary and analytical feel to the play. Actors in the chorus have studied people involved in violence from different historical periods and written their own monologues.
Aliera Morasch ’16 plays a deceased American veteran, Sarina Johnson, a character based on a real woman who served in the Iraq War. Morasch researched, created the character and wrote a monologue for her role in the chorus.
“When I found her story, I found it to be very moving. Her family was told by the Army that she committed suicide, but there’s an ongoing investigation on her rape and murder. I was interested in the injustice of the story,” said Morasch.
Connor Wheaton ’16 plays Chiron, a character who rapes Titus’ daughter. This is his first acting role at K.
“It was a challenge to actually get myself to act that violent,” Wheaton said. “I never expected to think that way.”
Jane Huffman ‘15, who plays the role of young Lucia, said the violence in Titus is supposed to make the audience uncomfortable.
However, Huffman said, “We approached [violence] in an academic way. Kevin’s adamant that we understand what we’re doing. We’re here to both entertain, but also catalyze dialogue.”
Ike Njoku ‘14 plays Aaron, an African character who insights violence as vengeance against his Roman captors. Njoku said Aaron was a controversial role.
“It wasn’t easy. There were questions all along pertaining to race,” he said.
Elizabethan era England was racially homogeneous, different to contemporary America with complex and varied race relations.
“Aaron is African in stereotypical way,” Nojuku said. “A contemporary audience will not go along with this. How do we portray what Shakespeare had in mind, but also please a modern audience?”
Njoku said that in his speeches as Aaron he must perform as an intelligent person to counter stereotypes. He said that he is “finding the balance between complete psychopath and a father with a soft side to create a multi-layered character.”
Thursday’s performance begins at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday’s performances begin at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Thursday night is “pay what you want.” Friday, Saturday and Sunday, adults pay $15, seniors pay $10 and students (with ID) pay $5. For more information visit www.kzoo.edu/theatre or call (269) 337-7333.