All the world’s a stage: Theatre and dance department presents Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’

Mamta Badlani, Senior Writer

From March 31 through April 3, the University theater and dance department impressed crowds at the Harvey M. Powers Theatre with their rendition of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” directed by Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Anjalee Deshpande Hutchinson.

The performance starred Zoe Davidson ’18, Delaney Clark ’18, Eric Gowat ’17, and Rodney West ’17.

Shakespeare’s shortest play follows a pair of estranged twin brothers, both named Antipholus, and another pair of estranged twin servants, both named Dromio, as they struggle to understand a series of wild mishaps. The cases of mistaken identity lead to wrongful beatings, near acts of adultery, the arrest of one Antipholus, and an accusation of demonic possession.

Tom Murphy ’17 served as Hutchinson’s assistant director for the show.

“I wanted to assistant direct because I couldn’t audition due to night classes, but coming off of ‘Wildwood Park’ in February I wasn’t ready to leave the theatre world. I handled much of the administrative side of the production, which I had previous experience with through being president of the ’Nell Party,” Murphy said.

The production differed from past University productions, like the most recent play “Next to Normal,” in that it was strictly a comedy.

“The past few seasons have been fairly dark, but this show is all about the laughs,” Davidson said. “We tried to play up the characters and circumstances as much as possible and focus on slapstick humor in order to make the show as funny as we could. We also cast the play gender neutral, so there were girls playing boys and vice versa.”

Performing roles of different genders offered actors an unfamiliar experience to expand their skills. Gowat, a senior performer, took on the role of a female character named Luciana.

“The most challenging part was learning feminine mannerisms and how to walk and sit like a woman,” Gowat said. “Working so closely with Zoe I was able to study how she walked and moved, then I mimicked it in a softer way that fit my character. Overall this role has really diversified my acting background and allowed me to try to discover new aspects of character work I had not previously explored.”

Transitioning to a Shakespearean comedy after performing emotionally weighted productions presented the theater department with a welcome challenge.

“The biggest challenge with us was crafting the comedy,” Davidson said. “Comedy is actually extremely difficult to pull off because every audience member is different and everyone reacts to comedy differently.”

Davidson went on to describe the performers’ doubts before their first show.

“Going into our opening night performance, I still wasn’t sure if our jokes would land because we had never had an audience before,” Davidson said. “But we had such a wonderful and supportive crowd. They laughed at all of our jokes which only helped us to keep our own energy up and encouraged us to continue having fun and sharing our joy with the audience for the rest of the weekend.”

The performances had large turnouts, garnering support from family members, students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community. The large crowds and echoing laughter after each joke reflected the performance’s positive reception.

Lauren Gross ’19, one of the members in attendance, enjoyed the show.

“I am glad I went. I found it humorous and refreshing, and I look forward to what else the theater department has in store,” Gross said.

The production featured a small cast, which allowed the group to grow close to one another. Gowat shared one of the memorable moments on the set preparing for the show.

“My favorite part of the production was hearing Rodney refer to himself as a ‘sweet-faced youth.’ Something about that line makes me giggle, and I would repeat it backstage simultaneously to my colleagues every time he was performing it because it’s just that good,” Gowat said.

“The best part of the production was definitely the people working on it,” Davidson said. “We were able to establish such a fun and supportive atmosphere as an ensemble, I know that I at least felt like I could take risks and really play with my fellow actors in the rehearsal room and onstage during performance.”

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