The Department of Theater Arts presents The Living – The Lawrentian
Last weekend, October 28-30, the Department of Theater Arts at Lawrence University performed the play The alive, written by Anthony Clarvoe and directed by drama teacher Timothy X. Troy. Co-responsible for production were senior Emilia Ciotti Hernandez and second year Isabel Osterhus.
Set in London in 1665, the characters in the play are in the midst of the Bubonic Plague, a deadly infection that has spread rapidly, killing millions of Europeans. According to the production brochure, The alive was written in 1993 during the HIV and AIDS crisis, but since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the performance now has added meaning to its audience.
Centered around a group of characters affected by the bubonic plague in different ways, The alive offers a glimpse of a world before modern medicine. Ms Sarah Chandler, played by sophomore Hannah Amell, is unable to see her family after her husband dies of illness and her children are locked up with her sister’s family. Left with no one or nowhere to go, Sarah is forced to care for the sick and dying as a nurse.
Played by junior Alec Welhouse, Dr Edward Harman, one of the few doctors left in London during the plague, works with Sarah and cares for her patients. With many London residents dead or on the run in the countryside, feelings of isolation, loneliness and hopelessness develop with Sarah and Dr Harman’s relationship. These separation issues aside, the two characters also constantly risk their lives while caring for the sick, ultimately killing Dr. Harman with an intense case of the plague.
While Sarah and Dr Harman share the perspective of medical workers during the Bubonic Plague, aspects of government policy and intervention are also seen from the characters of Sir John Lawrence, played by sophomore Jon Wilker , and Lord Brounker, played by freshman Ella Rose Schaefer. Essentially left alone to rule the city of London with little money and resources, Sir John faces challenges in controlling the spread of the disease. Lord Brounker, who works with the King of England, frequently disagrees with Sir John, regardless of the character’s arguments.
While the audience is encapsulated by the struggles of commoners, as well as politicians, another character focuses on the plague death numbers. Played by junior Madeline Guest, Mr. John Graunt uses new statistical methodologies to predict how and where the plague will spread in and around London. Although frequently dismissed, Sir John employs Mr. Graunt to examine the plague-stricken numbers, giving the play’s plot a slight hope, as if the patterns and predictions Mr. Graunt calculated could save even the smallest part of London. of disease.
Each performer in the play gave an emotionally realistic performance of their character, tugging at the hearts of audience members who are themselves experiencing a pandemic. Acting, however, was not the production’s only fascinating experience. From the beautifully designed 1600s style costumes, with heavy fabrics, feathers, large skirts and other attention to detail, to intense and dramatic lighting, the performance of the department The alive dug deep into issues of social isolation, loss, politics and the general theme of survival.
As every element of the performance, from acting to dance and movement, the lighting, costumes and sound collided to create a realistic period piece with modern problem elements, nothing beats the final scene of the performance. After spending the entire room socially estranged from each other, Mr. Graunt reaches out to take Sarah’s hand, an act of hope and resilience during a time of desperation. Much, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, can be learned from this production of The alive, but above all, the play asks the audience how they will take care of each other during such a dark time.