Boy meets girl again and again and again in SMTD thesis, ‘Constellations’

Sunday, October 23, 2016 - 5:23pm

Art meets science through an inquisitive look at the theory of multiverse in “Constellations” by Nick Payne — a captivating and passionate love story that explores questions of fate and choice.

This Thursday, School of Music, Theatre & Dance Senior Clarisza Runtung will present Payne’s piece as her senior thesis.

In January 2012, “Constellations” earned immense praise when it premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. It later appeared on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in January 2015. In London, the cast was led by Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins and later, in New York, by Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson.

“ ‘Constellations’ is about a boy meets girl and then a boy meets girl again and again,” Runtung said. “With all the decisions they make when they meet each other, which one progresses to the next level?”

The set and lights for the show are minimalistic, as these simplistic elements leave room for a thorough look into the inner complexities of science. Exchanges between both characters leave a myriad of possibilities to unfold, with their relationship growing stronger as space and time progress.

“You’ll be peeking at a very personal world of these two characters — how their relationship develops, how it breaks, how they first met each other, how they first break up, how they first hurt each other,” Runtung said. 

The play revolves around the relationship between Marianne and Roland. Marianne, a physicist, explores how the theories of physics apply to her own life. Roland, a beekeeper, shares his passions alongside Marianne, as their unique interests complement their evolving relationship and each new possibility examined through different multiverses leads them both on an entirely different path.

“It’s kind of like a laboratory. One person does this and one person does that and you kind of get to play around with those things,” Runtung said.

Marianne and Roland both have different passions, yet in their differences, they are brought closer together. Rutung describes the script as written with language that is simple, but effective in communicating the dimensions of this relationship.

“I want the audience to leave the room thinking about what ‘meant to be’ really is,” Runtung said. “There are so many possibilities and I would like them to see that they have to be in the moment, because every possibility can happen.”

The cast considers how time and space intersect, as well as the power of free will. Do we have it? Where is its place in our lives? “Constellations” offers guidance to answering these questions.

Runtung’s project is particularly exciting for her because the play’s focus on science and art illuminates her own interests and studies.

“I have always been really interested in connecting art and science,” Runtung said. “I do theatre because I really want to explore what a human being really is and I feel like there’s no better way to explore that than putting it onstage.”

While planning what her thesis would look like, Runtung’s advisor suggested she choose something that she liked and to just go crazy with it. This play offers the challenge of representing complexities of theory, while also connecting these ideas with the beauty and familiarity of a love story.

“I don’t want to say it’s realistic, because sometimes when you say that, it just seems like you’re watching two people talking to each other,” Runtung said. “It’s not that.”

“Constellations” is composed of a team of four: Runtung directing, SMTD Senior Anastasia Zavitsanos playing Marianne, SMTD Junior Peter Donahue playing Roland and SMTD freshman Fee Christoph stage managing. The intimacy of the group, Runtung said, has allowed for deep thinking about what ideas this play is exploring and what the actors are ultimately trying to communicate through their story.

“This play has been a beautiful journey for every single one of us in the room and all of us are exploring the beauty of the space.” Runtung said. “It’s the first time I have had an experience like this.”  



October 27 @ 7:30 pm, October 28 @ 7:30, 11 pm, October 29th @ 7:30 pm

Walgreen Drama Center Studio One