Are nice people really left with the soggy end of the sandwich? Jimmy Stewart probably thought so, but the character, Shen-Teh of “The Good Person of Szechwan” begs to differ. In this unusual drama by Berliot Brecht of “The Threepenny Opera” fame, a young Chinese woman struggles to remain good in the presence of a corrupt society.
“It sounds like a parable,” said Malcolm Tulip, director of the production. “But it”s a little more complicated than that.” Tulip believes that Brecht”s concept for the play indicated a disinterest in storytelling, and instead a venue through which a particular message would be imparted to his audience.
During the early decades of the 20th century, Brecht experienced first-hand the desperation of the Germans. He, too, heard Hitler”s lies and saw the “victorious” German soldiers battered and beaten. In fact, he felt the indignation all the way to his Marxist soul. Brecht dreamed of a form of theatrical art, which would not only entertain his audience, but also move them. This dream resulted in the birth of this epic play.
Tulip chose the secondary version of the play, nicknamed the “Santa Monica version,” which eliminates a few lengthy scenes and focuses more attention on the character, Shen-Teh. Although songs are included, they serve a purpose divergent of the usual one, which is often projecting the emotions of the characters. “Songs and poems frequently interrupt the action of the play,” he said. “The songs prevent the audience from getting hypnotized. Instead the audience must think about what is going on, and resist escapism.”
The songs for “The Good Person of Szechwan” have been created especially for the show by Frank Pahl, who also wrote the songs for last year”s production of “The Tempest.” Pahl has also written the score for four of Tulip”s eight original plays.
Tulip believes that it is important that the actors understand the subtle messages implemented in the story. Therefore, he has been reading and discussing the play with the cast in great detail as a supplement to regular rehearsals. In addition, he instructed the cast to make up their own epilogues for the play, one of which will be included along with Brecht”s epilogue.
As theater majors, rehearsals and shows consume a large portion of the actors” lives, but they all believe the experience of performing onstage is worthwhile. Senior Lauren Sporadek, who plays the character, Shen-Teh, said, “[acting] has always been the thing that has made me the happiest. I did many auditions, but in the end I fell in love with this school. It”s been wonderful especially with such great professors and actors.”
Joe Hendrix, senior, who plays the character, Yang Sun, shares his fellow cast member”s enthusiasm for acting. “I love making people think and that”s what I am doing when I am on stage, as opposed to just talking to them, trying to convince them of my opinion,” he said. “I believe that vulnerability is one of the most vital characteristics an actor can have.”