by Sophie Yang, ‘19
Upper Arlington theater students performed their second showing of the fall play, “The Arsonists,” on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Little Theater to a crowd of about 60.
“It was a good show,” said Grace Hollis, chorus member and stage manager. “The audience laughed more than last night’s audience.”
The show capped seven weeks of daily rehearsals, sometimes three hours long. In these after-school hours, the 13-person cast and production team of “The Arsonists” talked through scenes, decided light and sound, helped director and English teacher Greg Varner build the play’s set, and developed “The Arsonists”—originally written by Max Frisch as a 1953 German radio play—into a small theater production.
Arsonists are plaguing the city: setting fire to things, sneaking into houses, burning them down. Mr. Biedermann, loving husband and successful businessman, believes that his house could never fall victim to the arsonists, but what will he and his wife do when a pair of mysterious strangers walk into their lives?
— Excerpt from “The Arsonists” pamphlet written by senior Savannah Stearmer, dramaturg
Senior Lia Repucci, who played the role of Biedermann’s wife, said since “The Arsonists” was an absurdist play, the cast was able to work with aspects of theater that are not usually allowed.
“The chorus covers their faces with their hats,” Repucci said. “You’re not supposed to do that because you want to get expression across, but since the chorus is giant voice of reason, it was an artistic choice to cover the eyes to limit expression.”
Repucci, who has been involved in the Little Theater since her freshman year, found “The Arsonists” intriguing due to the questions it raises.
“Who are the chorus? Who is the doctor of philosophy? It depends on each individual audience member’s perspective of the show, which makes it so interesting,” Repucci said.
Hollis offered one explanation for the chorus—”the presence of narration and [the protagonist] Biedermann’s subconscious”—but like the rest of the play, its role remains up for interpretation.
Bringing their vision to light
When working “The Arsonists” into a Little Theater play, the cast members drew only from the script, leading long conversations about analysis and presentation.
Sophomore Grace Hollis, chorus member and stage manager, said this was a long process.
“In the first read-through, we had people do random parts, and then it was experimenting and trying things for a while. Eventually, we got into a rhythm of ‘Okay, this works’ and ‘Okay, this doesn’t work’ and focused on making [the scenes] more intense and more intentional,” Hollis said.
Sophomore Luca Naguiera, who played a waiter named Eisenring, agreed.
“There were a lot of places where we would experiment blind,” Naguiera said. “Each show is a little different.”
When building the play, sophomore Paul Gonciulea—who played the show’s lead, Gottlieb Biedermann—said there was a major focus on character development.
“Between working on the actual scenes, lines and movements in our spare time, we spent a lot of time trying to develop our characters,” Gonciulea said. “[Biedermann] is an idiot, but a believable idiot. It was fun trying to convince people that I’m an idiot.”
Gonciulea said he was happy with the Nov. 9 performance, and Repucci said she was touched by the turnout.
“It means so much for people to come out and support our craft, for people to have that communication about what these plays [mean] and why [people] write stories like this,” Repucci said.
“The Arsonists” will run for its final showing on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m in the Little Theater. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door.