When the 11 students and faculty of Gannon University’s Schuster Theatre ventured across the pond to Edinburgh, Scotland, this past August for the International Collegiate Theatre Festival (ICTF), little did they know the impact their theatrical piece would leave.
“APE/ESSENCE,” a play based on Aldous Huxley’s 1948 dystopian novel, was welcomed and praised by the British Theater Guide, an independent website on British Theater.
Reviewer Graeme Strachan wrote of the production, “The players lope and whoop, while flinging themselves around the stage in energetic glee, bedecked in Mad Max-like war paint, khaki clothes and furs, managing to milk every drop of humour out of the ridiculousness of the situation, while allowing the uncomfortable undercurrent of violence and horror to bubble just below the surface, erupting periodically.”
He added, “Indeed, the tragedy of this show is that it will only appear for a mere four showings, each of which is at a different time of day — a state of affairs that will probably ensure it isn’t seen by nearly enough Fringe patrons.”
The British Theater Guide gave “APE/Essence” a four out of five-star rating, which was the highest rating of the four colleges that attended this year’s festival.
Seamus Clerkin, a sophomore education major, noted his excitement upon seeing the critic’s opinion.
“I felt amazed when I read the review,” Clerkin said.
“Getting recognized by such a big theater reviewer was an honor.”
ICTF is one of the largest arts festivals in the world, spanning 25 days with 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues.
The cast was beyond ecstatic at the review, having spent months furthering the piece from the Rev. Shawn Clerkin’s original adaptation, performing it as a Gannon mainstage performance, and even rehearsing and adjusting it over the summer just before leaving for the festival.
Megan Hamm, a senior theater communication art major, described the long six- to 10-hour practices the cast would participate in over the summer.
“Through the summer process, different scenes developed more,” Hamm said. “We were able to spend more time correcting parts that weren’t reading and created an entirely new part to the show that was movement-based.”
The Schuster Theater anticipates performing “APE/ESSENCE” again for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival this January.