Student production set to open theater season Sept. 22

Brendan Wynne

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Sarah Dempsey, theater sophomore, Hope Harwick, theater junior, Dean Hart, theater sophomore, and Joey McGrinn, theater sophomore, listen to notes during rehearsal for "Speech and Debate," Sept. 15. Photo by Brendan Wynne

Sarah Dempsey, theater sophomore, Hope Harvick, theater junior, Dean Hart, theater sophomore, and Joey McGinn, theater sophomore, listen to notes during rehearsal for “Speech and Debate,” Sept. 15. Photo by Brendan Wynne

Opening its season with the largest student-directed production in 15 years, the theater department once again steps up to its reputation for pushing boundaries and challenging the mind. Stephen Karam’s “Speech & Debate,” running Sept. 22-25 in the Bea Wood Studio Theatre, reveals to audiences the tale of three outcasts as they attempt to uncover the truths behind political hypocrisy. Houston Pokorny, student-director of “Speech & Debate,” said he aims to embrace the contemplative aspect of the play by taking the audience on a self-reflective journey alongside the characters.

“Everyone can relate to these characters in some way,” Pokorny, a theater senior, said. “Too often, we hear about people who aren’t comfortable in their own skin, or people who have secrets that they’d go to any lengths to hide. We really get to delve into the mind’s of these outcasts who don’t have anyone they can talk to, hoping they eventually find some semblance of comfort in each other.”

“Speech & Debate” runs Sept. 22-25 in Bea Wood Theatre”

Since rehearsals began the week before school started, Katie Cagle, stage manager, says she’s confident in the way the cast and crew have progressed, and that although nerves are commonplace as opening night approaches, much of the cast couldn’t be more excited. According to Sarah Dempsey, theater sophomore, bringing life to these characters has been nothing short of a blast. Poking fun at political and social issues, Dempsey said she ensures there’s more than enough fun to be had with these misfits.

Houston Pokorny, theater senior and director, reacts to the scene during rehearsal for "Speech and Debate," Sept. 15. Photo by Brendan Wynne

Houston Pokorny, theater senior and director, reacts to the scene during rehearsal for “Speech and Debate,” Sept. 15. Photo by Brendan Wynne

“My character, Diwata, is unique, to say the least,” Dempsey said, “She’s her own person, but I relate to her more than I’d like to admit. I’m not sure I’m quite as wild and out-there as she is, but I definitely have that aspect about me. I mean, I am a theater major, after all.”

While the play revolves around controversial subjects, from abortion to political hypocrisy, it is, at its core, a comedy. However, finding balance between the sobering topics and the light-hearted nature, with which they’re explored, was no easy task.

“It’s all a balancing act, a very delicate balancing act,” Pokorny said, “Whenever people talk about these kinds of subjects, people often forget the humanity of it all. People forget that these are still human beings with emotions and traits that make them more than just statistics. My hope for the play is that people will learn that, yes, these characters have certain traits or have done certain things that society has deemed controversial, but that doesn’t determine who they are. They’re real people with real emotions, and when you look at them as human beings and not just numbers, that makes all the difference.”

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