Knock 'Em Dead Productions will present Tom Stoppard's Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead this Thursday through Saturday as a fundraiser to support the fight against breast cancer. This production will be the first in a series of fundraisers by the collection of medical students and undergraduates who came together for theater and for charity. With this run of Stoppard's play, the group hopes to raise $2,000 for the "Y-Me" breast cancer foundation.
"The play is an examination of universal themes such as death and fate that uses Shakespeare's Hamlet as its starting point," said director Jack Tamburri, a fourth-year in the College. "It follows two of that play's incidental characters through the events that lead to their deaths. It is by turns poignant, chilling, and extremely funny."
Knock 'Em Dead was created this summer by second-year medical student Jennifer Gnerlich and Craig Fitzgerald, a third-year in the College and founding member of Occam's Razor. "I wanted to do something as an effort with undergraduates and medical students," Gnerlich said. "The play is entertaining; it should draw in a crowd to raise money for charity."
Gnerlich and Fitzgerald picked Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead after they happened upon a copy of it outside of Powell's Bookstore on 57th Street. With their theater experience Gnerlich and Fitzgerald thought they could make a good performance and fundraiser. The result is a straightforward presentation of Stoppard's play.
"We're staying to the text; we don't have a reason not too. It's perfect as written," Tamburri said. "I'm not ready to second guess Tom Stoppard even if he's second guessing Shakespeare."
Colin McFaul, a first-year in the College who plays Polonius, became interested in the performance when he received an e-mail from Gnerlich on the University Theater mailing list.McFaul thinks that the group is unique in its quirky approach to a serious problem. "I have a tendency to meet interesting people who work in theater," McFaul said.
"I did theater in college, techwork," said Rachel Gainfortune, stage manager and costume designer. "I was disappointed by the lack of theater opportunities in the medical school. [Knock 'Em Dead] let me play at lots of things over that I couldn't do otherwise."
Many group members have a personal interest in the fundraiser because of friends or loved ones who have breast cancer. Fitzgerald's aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer last spring. Gnerlich became involved in the fight against breast cancer when her friend and classmate, second-year Pritzker student Kathy Kawaguchi, was diagnosed with the disease this summer.
"Now I'm going through chemotherapy and [Gnerlich] has been with me this whole summer. She's a great friend and resource," Kawaguchi said. At 24, Kawaguchi was surprised when she learned she had cancer. "I was completely broadsided. Especially as a medical student you never think that you yourself will become a patient."
Each performance will offer information about breast cancer, including pink ribbons and pamphlets for audience members.
"I think the most important thing is early detection," Kawaguchi said. "It's important to do the self-exam or to look at your family history. While it's devastating, it is something that you can get through; you have really good chances if you catch it early."
Kawaguchi said that she is very excited about the performance. "I know how much work they've put into it. It should be a great production."
Performances are on November 8, 9 and 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the Reynolds Club first floor theater. The admission charge is a $7 donation.