Sunday, February 11, 2007

Partly because of that greater complexity, and partly to make the best use of the available talent pool for this production, Heckel made two changes in how the show is cast.

“If it’s gotten more complicated, how do I reflect that?” The answer was casting Joshua, the black slave in Act I, not with a white male as called for in Churchill’s script, but with a white woman. And in Act II, the role of Martin, “the New Age male” as Heckel describes him, “the husband who talks about believing in feminism more than his wife does,” is played by a woman in the HSU production.

At HSU, Heckel has directed Paula Vogel's Learning To Drive, and both parts of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, among many other plays, including Brecht's Mother Courage last spring. He is retiring from teaching in the HSU Theatre department this year, but for the past several years he has pursuing an advanced degree in psychology. His dissertation is on gender identity, so Churchill’s play is a natural.

Issues of racism, sexuality and their relationship to political power are also interwoven themes. “With Churchill, there’s this funny, stylized, very theatrical surface, but underneath there are primal expressions of what we continue to do to each other through the generations.”

Audiences should relate to the action and attitudes and “the generational issues in the play,” Heckel feels. Though there is strong language, sexual situations and the proviso of “For Mature Audiences,” “this is the work of a mainstream playwright. This isn’t obscure.”

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