‘Pygmalion’ opens at Schuster Theatre

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The Schuster Theatre will put on a production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” Thursday through Saturday and April 30-May 2.

What was the basis of the widely popular musical, “My Fair Lady,” this production is nothing like the light-hearted musical people may expect, said the director, the Rev. Shawn Clerkin. Something that is accentuated more by the fact that this show is set in the bizarre world of steampunk, a genre of science fiction that features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

In “Pygmalion,” linguistics professor Henry Higgins, played by sophomore theatre major Michael Haas, believes that he can transform a poor flower girl off the street — Eliza Doolittle, played by senior theatre and communication arts major Lauren Loop — into an upper-class lady simply by changing the way she speaks.

Clerkin has a very unique vision for the production of “Pygmalion.”

“My basic vision was to try to keep Shaw’s text and language and try to find something visual to move it to a contemporary audience,” Clerkin said. “So we moved it into the world of steampunk because that is an era that is at the same time as Shaw. It allows us to be Victorian and Edwardian but also be a little bit more contemporary”

Many people involved in the show are excited about the steampunk elements. Junior theatre and communication arts major and stage manager Abby Coppock said it would be very interesting to see the steampunk version.

“We are doing a unique take on a classic play,” Coppock said.

“Pygmalion” can be a tricky feat because many thespians have an expectation of it. Shaw is one of the more popular playwrights of the 19th century.

“The text is the most interesting aspect,” Clerkin said. “When dealing with a playwright that is world-renowned like George Bernard Shaw, we are going to have to face that fact that he wrote plays that are classically known. The words of the play are so brilliant and polemic, argumentative and dialectic. The words and the dialogue are very exciting for me.”

Senior theatre and communication arts major Todd Paropacic, who plays Alfred Doolittle, said he loves Shaw’s style of writing in “Pygmalion.”

“It is hilarious, and it is one of the greatest plays of the 20th century,” Paropacic said. “The characters are full of life and ridiculousness. It is full of British charm.”

Clerkin suggested that audience members know a little about the plot before they see the show and pay attention to the director’s note before the play. 

Students should see “Pygmalion” because it’s a “world classic,” Clerkin said. It is one of Shaw’s most produced and accessible plays. Since the 1950s, its popularity has increased since there was a musical based on it.

Clerkin said that today’s society can relate to “Pygmalion.”

“It has an important relevance as well because we continue to wrestle with the idea of social class and if we can move from a lower class to a higher class by changing our education, our manners or our geographic location,” Clerkin said. “There is a desire in our own culture called the American dream, the idea that anybody can make it. We have been confronted with the reality of that and wonder if it is a possibility.”

“Pygmalion” opens at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Schuster Theatre on 620 Sassafras St. and continues through Sunday, May 2. Tickets are free with a student ID.

 

MICHAEL FUJITO

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