By Kate Stringer , Staff Writer email@example.com
From THE BEACON
When traversing into the wilderness it is important to take three things: a machete, a Victorian pith hat, and an umbrella for poking hippopotami.
At least that’s the advice given by the characters in UP’s production of “On the Verge”, a play by Eric Overmyer about three female explorers from the Victorian era setting out to discover a new world, Terra Incognita.[nggallery id=10]
While they don’t encounter a hippopotamus, the women undergo bizarre occurrences. Foreign objects mysteriously appear in their luggage. Strange words begin pouring from their tongues. Women walk around in trousers.
Terra Incognita forces the women to confront their fears and anticipations of the unknown. While Alex (sophomore Emily Clare Biggs) demands they embrace their new world, Fanny (junior Danielle Renella) is as accepting of the future as she is of “cyclones, pit vipers, and bad grammar.”
Director Andrew Golla believes the play intentionally leaves the audience with unresolved questions about the future.
“The play asks ‘how do we face the future? How do we go into the future?” Golla said. “Do we face it with fear, with anxiety or do we look at it as an opportunity for discovery, for change? Is change good?”
Perhaps the most inspiring reaction to this mysterious landscape is seen in Mary (senior Jessica Hillenbrand), who literally blazes a trail into unknown territory with a machete in one hand and a superlative vocabulary in the other. Mary finds the future to be something more familiar than strange when she says “We are imbued with the future…nostalgia for the future.”
Hillenbrand greatly admires her character’s bravery.
“She is a very strong, courageous, independent woman despite the very male dominated world she comes from,” Hillenbrand said. “She’s off chopping jungles with a machete and trying to establish connections with cultures. She’s incredibly passionate about what she does and very much enthralled with the discovery of new people and new places.”
The feeling of being in a new environment is vividly communicated through sound and lighting rather than the changing of sets.
“We wanted the sound of the beach, the jungle, the sound of the glacial ice bridge – we wanted all of that to create the environment to help the audience imagine,” Golla said.
Hillenbrand, Renella, Biggs, and junior Matthew Sepeda make up the cast with Sepeda playing eight different characters.
“If you want to get technical, I actually have 9 characters because one is very split personality type,” Sepeda said. “[It was challenging] defining and crafting each one of my characters and making them distinct from each other – physicality wise, voice wise, even their personal history.”
Playing eight different characters also requires being in two places at once. For Sepeda, one costume change happens before the audience realizes he’s left the stage.
“It’s actually a little stressful because I have 15 seconds to change into another costume and I literally have to go crawl under the stage,” Sepeda said.
Hillenbrand said the most challenging aspect of the play is the physical exertion that is required in every scene.
“We have big travel backpacks that are filled with machetes, umbrellas and a bunch of equipment,” Hillenbrand said. “We also have big skirts and petticoats, so we have to hike up our skirts and step over stuff or chop through vines. It is exhausting – I have winded myself.”
Perhaps even more exciting than getting to wield a machete is the message of hope Hillenbrand found in the play.
“It’s the idea of being on the edge of something and at that point in life where you ask, ‘do I take that step back into what I know or do I take the step off the cliff into who knows what?’ You have to be, prepared, sure, but you have to be really optimistic. You have to be excited to take this step forward.”