February 8, 2016

A Weekend of Workshops Questions Art, Sanity, Fortune

When I walked into the Frances X. Kinahan Theater this Saturday afternoon to catch the matinee of A Weekend of Workshops, I was not prepared to question my sanity.

A Weekend of Workshops is a series of short excerpts and original pieces of theater put on by University Theater, generally in fall and winter quarters. This weekend, the show featured two workshops, with a short intermission followed by a second show by another performance group. On Thursday and Friday nights, the second show was a commedia lazzi showcase—a fast-paced gag routine—while both the Saturday matinee and evening shows featured a performance of Wittgenstein’s Mistress by the Classical Entertainment Society.

The first workshop, Context, was written and directed by fourth-year Kayla Mathisen and featured first-years Elise Lemp, Joshua Maymir, Juhi Muthal, and second-year Kennedy Green. Set in an art gallery, it questioned the true meaning and worth of art.

The second workshop, The Monkey’s Paw, was adapted by Brandon McCallister from a short story by W. W. Jacobs and starred second-years Natalie Pasquinelli and Joshua Mark and first-years Nate Chandler and Saisha Talwar. In it, a veteran of the British army who served in India tells the story of a charmed monkey’s paw that grants three wishes to each of three men. The veteran’s friend uses his third wish to wish for death; the veteran himself says the paw has caused him “a lot of mischief.” As might be expected, the play becomes a “be careful what you wish for” parable, but, overall, it was very well done.

Many people left after the intermission, which turned out to be a mistake. What came next was the highlight of the afternoon, and the part that made me doubt my rationality: the Classical Entertainment Society’s presentation of Wittgenstein’s Mistress, an adaptation of a book by the same name. I knew the production was a one-woman show; what I had not known was that a one-woman show could involve more than an hour of acting, dance, and movement that occasionally took the actress outside of the theater.

Wittgenstein’s Mistress is hard to explain, but it essentially tells the story of a madwoman, her life, and her travels. Well-executed, it was my favorite part of the workshops. When I walked back out into the daylight, my head was spinning.

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