This item originally appeared in the Feb. 19, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.
By NICK TODARO
For the first few moments, it almost seemed unreal.
Sitting in Stone Theatre Feb. 11, the audience was given the chance to watch complex and unique genius.
It seemed odd that moments before the 7:30 p.m. start time, there were actors talking with each other on stage with a stage manager watching over them, oblivious to the audience.
Then it hit. Oh, this is the play within the play. This is "Six Characters in Search of an Author." This is really what is scripted and what costs $4 to see.
There is really no glowing praise worthy of what this team deserves.
Scott Gilbert, an instructor of speech and theatre, directed the play.
"I was going for something special with the start," Gilbert said. "Those who showed up a few minutes early got a taste of something a little extra from the cast."
Actors were on stage portraying the workings of a rehearsal as though they were actually alone, flawlessly, which is real art.
Gilbert molded part of the script of the play to fit Tech's specific theater department.
Actors were playing themselves, which is an interesting idea in itself, so he said they gave feedback to him that made them seem more real on stage.
At some point during the woe of rehearsing a play that the actors have been through umpteen million times, they are interrupted by a crisis.
Six unfinished characters are at the door. Personas created for the stage, more lively than true life, are physically at the door.
The story evolves from there in twists and turns that a shrewd audience member will piece together and follow to the climax.
Once the initial shock has worn off, the cast and the characters start to work on putting together something with what is handed to them, instead of burning the midnight oil on a play they know by heart.
One member of the cast, the father, played by Timothy Makin, a junior speech major, portrays an intellectualizing yet callous and almost pitiable man.
He poses a thought to the actors present that is quite ironic in context. That is, why have somebody else play the characters? Another actor cannot possibly portray a part as perfectly as the characters themselves.
Nick Harrison, a graduate student of theatre at Grambling, said he was worried the play was too out-there.
"Our big worry was whether or not the audience would be able to stay with us while the heavy intellectual stuff was being laid out there," Harrison said.
Gilbert was pleased to know the play was understood.
"Jake Guinn, Mark Guinn's middle-school-age son was able to understand what was going on," Gilbert said.
"We were shooting for something ironic that people might pick out if they pay attention and try to stay with Makin during his soliloquy," Gilbert said.
"I'm not even sure that I understand all of what's going on in those scenes."
Boom. It hits right about the time he makes the point.
The humor of watching students acting onstage as themselves is funny when one thinks about that comment. It isn't only funny, though. It's deep.
Both plays climax at once, with the conclusion of the gut-wrenching story the characters hold within themselves flowing into their abrupt disappearance, which leaves the actors shocked and unfulfilled as well as deeply affected.
It is just too good. Some deal was made with the devil.