Jun 17, 2014
01:18 PM
Education

Play on Aftermath of Mass Killings Debuts in U.S. With WCSU Students’ Help

Play on Aftermath of Mass Killings Debuts in U.S. With WCSU Students’ Help

Photo by David Levine

Pictured are Clifford Samuel (top of box) and Derbhle Crotty.

In a way it’s a tale of two tragedies.

Last summer, students from Western Connecticut State University in Danbury were in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, performing a production of “Lysistrata: The Disco Vaudeville Rock N Roll Musical” (a rock infused reimagining of the ancient Greek play by Aristophanes). While there, they were asked to perform as a choir in “The Events,” an original play written by David Greig.

Greig, a major Scottish playwright, had written “The Events” in reaction to the 2011 mass killings perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway that left a total of 76 dead. The play explores the limits of forgiveness, and how individuals and communities cope in the aftermath of a tragedy. It has two main characters; Claire, a young church choirmaster who survived the tragedy, and "the boy,” who plays a variety of roles, as well as the chorus, which serves as the Greek chorus for the production, not only singing but commenting on the action.

The WCSU students and accompanying faculty members (right) agreed to participate in the show, which was particularly poignant for them as Danbury borders Newtown and many in the group had deep ties to the  community where the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened.

The WCSU group members were far from the only ones moved by “The Events.” Ultimately it was one of the recipients of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s prestigious “Scotsman Fringe First Awards.”

Now “The Events” is making its U.S. debut in Connecticut at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. It will run from June 24 to June 28 at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The WCSU choir will add its members' emotionally charged voices to the production during the Wednesday, June 25, 8 p.m. performance (other local choirs will perform during other performances of the play).

Sal Trapani, a WCSU theater professor and the director of the choir, explains that the choir performs an important role in the production. “It is the vehicle through which the main character, Claire, tries to heal herself.  We sing a number of songs in the show, which we learned at a rehearsal. We also have lines in the play. We play different individual characters and we have group scenes.”

Trapani adds that although the show deals with the Norway mass killings it speaks to acts of violence everywhere. (Left, Clifford Samuel and Derbhle Crotty.)

“It is based on the Norwegian incident, but is not specific to it. It is more importantly about how we deal with, as a community and as individuals, these horrific tragedies,” Trapani says. “Each person will respond to the play differently. For some people, it may be very difficulty to sit through. It was a beautifully moving, healing experience for our company to experience. Theater can be and for me is a healing art. This was, for us, just that.”

After each performance there will be a discussion with a spiritual leader from various faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

At each show the choir gets to perform a unique song of the group members’ choosing. The WCSU choir chose a song from their production of “Lysistrata” that seemed to match the themes explored in “The Events.”

“The song from ‘Lysistrata’ is about healing,” Trapani says. “Lysistrata’ is a work that deals with the toll that war takes on a people, on cultures, on the world. The lyric ‘we are all people, with the power to dream,’ expresses the hope that we can dream and eventually create a world without violence.”

 For more information visit artidea.org/theevents

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

Play on Aftermath of Mass Killings Debuts in U.S. With WCSU Students’ Help

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