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Basement Arts goes crazy in new show

Terra Molengraff/Daily
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BY ERIKA JOST
For the Daily
Published February 6, 2011

Correction Appended: An earlier version of this article misstated the name and school of MT&D sophomore Aimee Garcia.

Gordon Granger, a senior in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, was 18 years old and on vacation with his parents the first time he saw “The Wonderful World of Dissocia” at the Royal Theater in London. The play made such a strong impression on him that he selected it for his directorial debut with Basement Arts.

When Granger first watched the play, he was thrilled by the first act, which follows the story of a girl, Lisa, exploring a fantastical universe littered with punny adventure — a run-in with Insecurity Guards and a scapegoat that actually is a goat.

“The first act is a fun romp through an alternate world, like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ” Granger said. “I didn’t think you could have so much fun in a theater.”

The second act, however, shocked and sobered him completely, a reaction he hopes to inspire in his own audience.

“The second act takes place completely in a hospital bed,” Granger said. “It was prolonged and it was painful. At the time, I thought the whole play was such a cop-out. I have a different appreciation now.”

Despite his initial disappointment, Granger bought a copy of the dark comedy, written by Anthony Neilson, and soon adopted a whole new attitude toward it. “The Wonderful World of Dissocia” explores a case of dissociative disorder, in which Lisa suffers an episode of detachment from reality.

“I thought about it, and the message became quite clear: Would you rather live in a wonderful fantasy or a dull reality?” he said. “We all have choices. Our lives depend on what choices we make, and the end results we come to are very different things.

“Now I think the play is just fantastic. It’s dark and serious — rape and abuse happen on stage — but it’s also deeply funny. You can deal with anything through comedy. Just because you can laugh at something doesn’t mean you don’t respect it.”

MT&D sophomore Aimee Garcia, who plays the lead role of Lisa, was attracted to this production because of its bleak humor.

“There’s a part in the second act where I get to just freak out,” she said. “I’m excited to see how the audience responds to that.”

An actor-turned-director, Granger appreciates how Basement Arts allows any student the chance to participate in all aspects of production.

"One of my professors calls it a ‘gymnasium to exercise our skills,’ ” he said.

Though this is Granger’s first turn as a director, he said he is upholding a strong tradition.

“The best directors are always actors,” he said. “Acting for an actor/director is always easier. If you confront a problem, you can get at it through an acting technique. You just tend to believe them more. And I think it’s had a positive impact on this production. We were rehearsing a scene last night, and the actors are really starting to get the comedy.”

While both Granger and Garcia are looking forward to the audience’s response to the second act, Granger also hopes the audience will feel the kind of excitement he felt when he first saw the play in London.

“We have a flying bicycle in the show,” he said. “I always love seeing people riding bikes on stage, so I figured people would like it in this play too.”

Then, perhaps reflecting on the risks the show takes in using humor to grapple with serious themes like mental disorders, sexual assault and abuse.

“I just hope we don’t offend anyone,” Granger said.