Knowledge, sex, love, literature, science, the meaning of life … we college students are all too familiar with these thoughts. These relevant themes are also beautifully explored in Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia,” which kicks off the University’s theatre season tonight in the Robinson Theater.
The play takes place at a grand estate in Derbyshire, England and switches back and forth between 1809 and present day. Both stories depict characters’ quest for knowledge. Toward the end of the play, the two time periods are played simultaneously, creating engaging parallels. As director Scott Kaiser points out in the director’s note, this play is not a period drama, not a contemporary drama, not a comedy, and not a satire, although it has elements of all.
“The best way to view Arcadia is as a mystery,” Kaiser said. “Every character in the play searches obsessively for the answer to a gnawing question that stubbornly eludes them,” he said.
Tom Stoppard, who is considered one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, wrote this play in 1993. However, it features beautiful, dense, and clever language of a century before, all performed skillfully by the actors with perfect British accents.
“The language is so rich and beautiful and so many connections are made throughout the show that you really have to be paying attention in order to catch on. We’re all discovering them even now and I hope people appreciate that about it,” said Rachel Faught, a senior theatre arts and cultural anthropology major who plays 13-year-old Thomasina Coverly in the play.
University Theater was lucky to have Scott Kaiser, the director of company development at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, come direct the play. Kaiser, who works as an actor trainer at OSF, as well as an ambassador to college drama programs all over the country, came to UO in an effort to strengthen the relationship between OSF and University Theater.
“Working with young actors is tremendously rewarding,” he said.
Kaiser encourages anybody who’s at all interested in language to see the show. “The script is so smart. Stoppard is such a master. It is apologetically a language play,” he said.
Faught feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Kaiser.
“It’s just wonderfully written and it’s mysterious and has cool British accents,” she said. “If that’s not reason enough to see it, I don’t know what is!”
Arcadia runs Nov. 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 22, and 23 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. at the Robinson Theater. Tickets are free with a student ID, $14 for general admission, and $12 for Seniors, UO Faculty/Staff and non-UO Students.