A play that reframes dying as a part of life will be performed in staged readings at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wausau next month.
The UW-Stevens Point Department of Theatre and Dance will present “The Shadow Box” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at UWSP at Wausau; Feb. 10-11 at the Noel Fine Arts Center Room 221 on the UW-Stevens Point campus; and at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at UWSP at Marshfield. Face coverings will be required at each performance.
Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased online at tickets.uwsp.edu, by calling 715-346-4100, or by visiting the Information and Tickets Office in Dreyfus University Center in Stevens Point. Tickets will also be available at each venue starting one hour prior to each performance.
“This is one of the most beautifully written pieces of modern theater,” said Jim O’Connell, show director and assistant professor of arts management. Debuting on Broadway in 1977, “The Shadow Box” won author Michael Cristofer the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.
The show tells the stories of three terminally ill patients who live in cottages near a hospital and are visited by family and friends. It treats facing mortality as another stage of life, O’Connell said, as it was written in response to a new concept at the time – hospice, and the opportunity to die at home rather than a hospital.
“It touches on so many emotions so effectively,” O’Connell said. “The author’s ability to capture both a sense of human comedy and tragedy makes it his seminal work. I’m delighted to be working on it with such talented students.”
He first directed the show 40 years ago, and always wanted to direct it again. “Originally I saw the play as being about dying with dignity,” he said. “This time I’ve discovered it is not about dying at all but continuing to live until you die.”
A cast of 15 will rotate between major and minor roles during the four performances to give more students a chance at meaningful roles. During the staged reading, there is no set. Actors read the play and each stands as they perform, with another actor reading the stage directions.
“There is no blocking, lights or set movement. Instead, concentration is on the words and their interpretation,” O’Connell said. “The poetry of the language carries the show.”
The staged reading also offers a more intimate experience for both the actors and the audience, O’Connell said. Bringing the cast to Marshfield and Wausau allows more people to see the show in their own community without having to travel and gives student actors the experience of touring with a production.