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THA professor Krstansky to direct play next fall

By Theresa Gaffney

Section: Arts, Top Stories

April 11, 2014

It may be the end of the semester, but that doesn’t mean that the theater is quiet. This Monday, in the Crawford Studio in Spingold Theater, Professor Adrianne Krstansky (THA) held auditions for a play that she will be directing next fall at Brandeis through the Brandeis Theater Company. The play is called “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” by Sarah Ruhl.

“An incessantly ringing cell phone in a quiet café. A stranger at the next table who has had enough. And a dead man with a lot of loose ends. So begins ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone,’” the description of the audition on the Brandeis Arts calendar reads.

Krstansky fell in love with Ruhl’s work right away, she said, after seeing another production of Ruhl’s at Brandeis a few years earlier. Viktoria Lange ’13 directed “a gorgeous production” of Ruhl’s “Eurydice.”

“I was so taken by the world of the play and even more particularly by how beautifully our students lived in her world. Her writing is very imaginative, quirky, funny and poetic—and the characters are dealing with enormous challenges but have moments of childlike innocence and joy,” Krstansky said.

Then, she read “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.” The play spoke to her immediately because “it addresses issues that I am currently thinking deeply about—the role of technology in our lives, loneliness, death, connection—how we wish to be remembered, this new way of knowing each other that has come about via cell phones, texting, Facebook, etc … and the play addresses these questions in this fantastically light-hearted, quirky, hilariously and deeply moving way.”

While it may seem surprising that a professor is going to direct a performance within Brandeis’s own theater community, Krstansky said that it happens all the time. Next season, Krstansky as well as Professor Susan Dibble (THA) and Professor Robert Walsh (THA) will be directing shows. In addition to these professors, faculty designers as well as undergraduate designers and stage managers and professional artists from the Boston area will help out with other aspects of the productions.

“We are especially excited about that international director Hafiz Karmali is coming to direct ‘The Conference of Birds’ with our undergraduate students,” Krstansky said. According to his website, Karmali “favors a highly stylized form of dance-theatre that is often inspired by art history and devotional in nature.” His most recent production, “Rumi x 7 = Tales from the Masnavi” is performed “circus-style” featuring acrobats and clowns. It is a series of vignettes including familiar stories like “The Elephant in Darkness” and “The Grammarian and Boatman.”

The budget provided by the school for Brandeis Theater Company will fund the play.

Despite the fact that Krstansky is on sabbatical, she still made it to Brandeis for the auditions on Monday night and for callbacks the following night. So far, she has been thrilled with how auditions have gone.

“Auditions were last night and went extremely well. This is going to be an incredibly difficult decision for me as folks did such a beautiful job of bringing their own personal interpretations to the roles and to the plays. I was so grateful that so many people had taken the time to read the play and really had an understanding of the atmosphere and world these characters exist in. This is so crucial in an audition—to know that you are going to be part of a big picture and understanding the role of a character in telling the story,” she said.

Not only did the students auditioning for “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” impress Krstansky with their deep understandings of the story, but many brought subjects to light that she had never thought about before. “This group of actors last night taught me about the play—and it is such a gift in auditions when people come in and surprise you or make you hear a line in a different way or show you what is important to know or important questions to ask. Every person gave me a moment of thinking—‘Oh yes, I need to look more carefully at that moment—look at what they just did!’”

Rehearsals for “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” will begin almost immediately upon returning to school on Aug. 28. The performances will be Oct. 9-12.

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