Controversial student-directed play to enter final weekend
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 01:04
Ellyce Shaheen boasts a black eye and a massive brownish-black mark on her cheek.
They are only makeup for an upcoming play, Lukas Bärfuss’ “The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents,” but she must learn stage combat to ensure she won’t earn any real bruises.
“Stage combat was very difficult for me. There’s a lot of fighting. Yeah, I get it handed to me,” said Shaheen, a junior communication major and theater minor. This is her first play at UCCS.
Shaheen plays Dora, the main character. According to Christian O’Shaughnessy, a junior theater major who directs the production, Dora was born with a learning disability resembling mild autism.
“For the last three years, she’s been kept on a combination of drugs that kept her docile, rarely crying, rarely speaking and things like that,” he said.
Dora begins to experience the hormonally charged feelings of puberty once her mother takes her off the drugs.
She then thinks of sex in the ways her parents and society perceive them, an experience that O’Shaughnessy described as a “backward blossoming.”
Shaheen said that capturing Dora’s complex, evolving character has been a challenge. “It was especially difficult getting her hand movements, and her physicality was really difficult to grasp at first.”
She worked with O’Shaughnessy to learn stage combat and gain a better feel for her character and added, “After a while, after getting into the role more, it was a lot easier.”
“The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents” contains abortion, abuse and rape, all issues that contribute to the play’s controversial status.
“Overall, I thought the play was very European, first of all,” said Shaheen. “Second of all, I just thought it was out there and different, and I loved that about it. I think that’s what really drew me in to do Dora’s character.”
O’Shaughnessy noted that the play also addresses how society desexualizes people like Dora.
“It makes things really touchy and hard to approach, and the text as a whole is really touchy and hard to approach.”
He said the play “really raises the question of what the right way to love someone is and if there is a right way to love somebody.”
O’Shaughnessy, who described himself as primarily an actor, first directed “Debate,” a one-act by Ethan Coen. This is his first full production.
“Directing has illuminated a lot of stuff for me as an actor, the stuff that I do, the way that I approach my rehearsal process and my preparation for things like that will be different from here on out for the rest of my life.”
Next semester he will also direct “Hedda Gabler,” Henrik Ibsen’s drama about a woman struggling to cope in a male-dominated society.
Whereas “Hedda Gabler” will take place in one room, “The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents” takes place in seven to eight different locations across thirty-five scenes.
O’Shaughnessy decided to use a runway, where two spots on the stage stay the same while another is open for everything else, to allow one scene to smoothly transition into another and create a “filmic” effect.
“If you hate the theater, come see the show because it’s not like theater you see generally,” he said. “It’s a very hip, risky, new, fresh play that I think that a lot of people can see and really enjoy.”
And, O’Shaughnessy added, if nothing else, come for the great music. “You can go away with some new songs.”