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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Theatre department prepares fall production of Government Inspector

ANH-TRAM BUI / AGGIE
ANH-TRAM BUI / AGGIE

The cast and crew form a unified front to get ready for opening night.

The UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance’s fall production of Nikolai Gogol’s Government Inspector will have its opening night next Thursday on the Wright Hall Main Stage Theatre. The production will run from Nov. 12 to Nov. 15 and again from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22.

Gogol’s Government Inspector is a satirical comedy of errors exploring power and greed. The play revolves around the exploits of the citizens and officials of a small Russian town, where they believe a stranger is sent by the government to investigate corruption. Director Patricia Miller has chosen an adaptation by Scottish playwright David Harrower because she feels it best keeps the humor of the original play.

“[Government Inspector] involves a mix of [dramatic acting] and physical comedy,” said Miller, who holds an MFA in directing from UC Davis. “It takes [an actor] who can perform lines and be physical.”

Miller went on to explain that due to the physical nature of the humor, even the actors who were not speaking had to be mindful of their stage presence. During a recent rehearsal, this physicality became apparent, as characters bumped into one another, hopped over props and flung themselves across the stage.

The physical nature of the play also means that every actor’s role is equally important, regardless of number of lines. Following auditions, the cast went directly into ensemble work, doing improvisational exercises and acting out scenes together prior to delving into the text of the play.

“A lot of [Miller’s] direction is more about the relationship between the characters than the individual character,” said Ryan Gerberding, a second-year Theatre and Dance Major playing the role of Anna. “It’s our job to work on the individual characters and the director’s job to shape the show.”

Nakeema Brooks, a fifth-year dramatic arts major who will be playing the role of the town’s judge, enjoys Miller’s directing style.

“It’s all about the partnership,” Brooks said. “[The cast] is a chain that needs to keep the show together. If one person breaks the chain, the whole thing can fall apart. […] We have to support each other.”

The camaraderie of the cast is palpable during their rehearsal, as actors who are not in scene watch and laugh along with the play, serving as a supportive audience for their fellow cast members. The cast also exhibits a familial patience with one another, redoing scenes and rereading lines with no signs of frustration.

While cast members explained that this is simply the outcome of working together during long hours and the upperclassmen working together on previous productions, it is a unified front borne out of the desire to put on the best production possible. This unifying desire transcends the cast and also carries over to the crew working behind the scenes.

Brice Hilburn, a fourth-year dramatic arts major, works on the lighting crew for the show and shared the sentiment of the cast.

“Every creative aspect of the show is both an individual creation and a collaboration,” said Hilburn. “The entire purpose of every single aspect, whether it’s sets, lights, costumes, props [etc.] is to serve the show. It’s to make one collective show good.”

Ultimately, everyone involved with the production is aware that the quality of the show is wholly dependent on the combined effort of everyone involved. Following rehearsal, a run-through of the entire five-act play, the cast sits together and receives constructive criticism from Miller.

Miller’s work as a director becomes more evident during this session, as she suggests everything from how actors should fall to the floor to listening to Hugh Grant to counteract the effects of a California accent. As this feedback session concluded, Miller reminded the cast that they had succeeding in cutting the run time of the show and were twenty minutes closer to the projected run time for opening night. The group celebrated their victory and exited the rehearsal room together.

Government Inspector premieres Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the  general public and $10 for students. For more information including show times, visit http://arts.ucdavis.edu/seasonal-event/government-inspector.

 

Written by: RASHAD HURST – arts@theaggie.org

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