Student-Faculty Direction of ‘The Illusion’ a First for PC
For the first time at Providence College, a student and a professor are working together to direct a main stage theatre production.
On the weekends of February 1-3 and 8-10, the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film (TDF) will present Tony Kushner’s adaptation of The Illusion in the Angell Blackfriars Theatre of the Smith Center for the Arts.
Patrick M. Saunders ’13 (Riverside, R.I.) and John P. Garrity ’73, associate professor of theatre arts and managing director of the Angell Blackfriars Theatre, are co-directing The Illusion, the first play by well-known playwright Kushner (Angels in America, Broadway; Lincoln, screenplay) to be produced at Providence College.
L'Illusion Comique, a comedy written by 17th-century French playwright Pierre Corneille, was adapted by Kushner as The Illusion. It explores the themes of illusion and reality, and differs from many plays in its structure, as it incorporates several story lines into its plot.
Saunders, a double major in English and theatre arts, originally pitched The Illusion as a studio theatre project, but theatre faculty determined that the acting and production requirements demanded by this play were beyond the scope of a laboratory production
However, because the TDF faculty was eager to support Saunders’ development as a director, members enthusiastically endorsed Garrity’s suggestion that this project would be an excellent opportunity for a directorial collaboration in the Angell Blackfriars Theatre.
“The action of the play asks the question, ‘Is it possible to attain perfect love in this world or is love really nothing more than an illusion,’” said Saunders, who has been involved in nine department productions in his four years at PC. “It also investigates the power of the imagination and the ways in which humans, in pursuit of truth, may learn through storytelling and the artifice of theatre.”
Communication is paramount
“It’s been a pleasure to have a partner,” said Garrity, who has taught and directed at PC since 1976. “The responsibilities of the director usually fall to one person, who then collaborates with designers, actors, and technicians to develop a vision for the production. Working with a partner requires us to share that responsibility, so this experience has been more been more complex but also creatively stimulating. We have to be able to communicate to get where we need to be.”
Garrity also said that this is the first time a student ever directed a play for the main stage, which is an opportunity Saunders earned by virtue of his past performances both in the classroom and on stage, and which also demonstrates the TDF faculty’s confidence in his ability as a young artist.
Not only does Saunders have to coordinate with the nearly 40 students who work on and off the stage, he also works with an exceptionally talented group of professional visiting artists who include local scenic designer Sarah Ossana, lighting designer Jen Rock of Boston, costume designer Mike Floyd of New York, and sound designer Paul Perry ’10 of Chicago.
“I don’t know how I would have been able to do it on my own, simply because there are so many things to keep track of and get your head around,” said Saunders. “It’s been a blessing to have John helping me along the way.”
“It has been a learning experience for me, too,” said Garrity. “It’s been very rewarding.”
Garrity and Saunders believe their partnership has helped their mission to provide the College community with what Garrity considers “a challenging work that will provoke audiences to consider their own perception of how storytelling helps us to understand the world we inhabit. This is a smart play composed in beautiful language that we anticipate will entertain our audience and send them home with a few interesting ideas to ponder.”
The Illusion will be performed at 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office in the Smith Center for the Arts. Hours are Monday through Friday from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m., as well as an hour before shows.
To purchase tickets over the phone, call 401-865-2218. Tickets are $5.00 for students, $9.00 for senior citizens and PC faculty and staff, and $13.00 for the general public.
—Nick Tavares ’16
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