Friday, February 12, 2010


Winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, Harold Pinter died just a little more than a year ago. That’s one reason that director John Heckel decided to do The Homecoming this season. “In celebration of his life and creative efforts, we’re sharing what some consider his best play, and certainly one of his most controversial.”

Even though this play was first performed in 1965, Heckel—who has directed numerous plays at HSU, including Angels in America, Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine and Brecht’s Mother Courage—has never directed The Homecoming before.

“For me, this play is a leap of faith,” he said. "You discover it by doing it—by finding the rhythm of the language and the rhythmic construction of the sequences.”

The actors also discover the play by doing it. “There are few writers that student actors won’t paraphrase. You probably don’t paraphrase Shakespeare or Chekhov or Beckett, and Pinter belongs to that group of writers. Actors learn a respect for that writing, and begin to believe that the answers are in the script, not in their imaginations.”

Now the audience can discover the play by seeing it.

“I think there’s a huge difference between reading this play and seeing this play,” Heckel said. “Some people read it and react with objections. But when you read it, there’s a tendency to take it literally.” In performance, however, the dynamics of what’s going on are clearer, and different levels are suggested. “ If you can take the audience on a journey with what appear to be realistic characters, and as they begin to shift into a more archetypal presence, the audience can see it in a not so realistic way.”

The audience will be able to get close to the play partly through the staging: the audience surrounds the playing area on three sides, in the intimate space of the Studio Theatre.

“The Studio has inadvertently lost its status as an experimental space,” Heckel said. “It used to present more invigorating efforts. That’s one reason I chose to do this play there. The Studio Theatre also provides a more intimate relationship between actors and audience.”

“ I’ve always been interested in the idea of the audience looking through dramatic action and seeing audience members on the other side, as a kind of mirror. That sense of reflection, as opposed to being a voyeur looking through the window at somebody who pretends they don’t know that they’re being watched.”

“In this way, too, the hope is that the audience is not just watching the characters’ wounds--the family dysfunctions, the sexual and gender confusions on the stage, but can reflect on their own woundedness.”

“The story and the style pull you in,” Heckel said. “So in the safe space of the theatre, it brings people into the presence of some powerful, shadowy stuff, and maybe they can reflect on their own relationships. It’s also funny—if you can give yourself permission to laugh.”

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