All the University’s a stage

Victor Garber once said, ‘You can only do so much theater.’ Apparently, Northern Kentucky University Department of Theatre does not share the celebrated stage and screen actor’s sentiments.

After having already done three productions in the 2008/2009 school year, the department will cap off its season with the Year End Series (Y.E.S.) Festival. The biennial event will debut three original plays that will run in repertory from April 16 to the 26.

Here’s a look into the plays that will be featured in the Y.E.S. Festival’s 14th go-round.

‘Shock and Awe’

‘Shock and Awe’ will kick start the biennial event April 16 in Corbett Theatre.

Set during the early years of the second Iraq War, ‘Shock and Awe’ follows U.S. soldiers’ as the play jumps from combat scenes to individual soldiers sharing their experiences in the war with the audience.

The original story comes from Damon Dimarco – an actor turned scribe who you may have seen on daytime soap operas ‘One Life to Live’ and ‘As the World Turns.’

The subject of ‘Shock and Awe’ is nothing new to Dimarco, who also wrote ‘Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11’ and ‘Heart of War: Soldiers’ Voices From the Front Lines in Iraq.’

The play deals with some very explicit material, especially when it comes to the combat scenes. But cast member Steven Justin Terry said the play recreates the scenes in typical stage production fashion.

‘All of the combat scenes use strobe lighting, guns with blanks, and off stage sound,’ Terry said.

‘Love and Communication’

Next up on April 17 in Strauss Theatre is ‘Love and Communication’ – a piece from lauded playwright James Christy (‘Put Them Away,’ ‘Creep’ and ‘The Ride’) that focuses on a couple struggling to hold it together as they tirelessly search for the proper educational setting for their autistic child.

‘It’s really about the parents search and the lengths they go to,’ director of ‘Love and Communication’ Mary Joe Beresford said.’ ‘It’s also about how society views them and realizing that autism is a behavioral disorder, not a disease.’

Rather than enlisting a kid to portray a 4-year-old autistic child, the character is invisible – giving the cast and the audience the job of visualizing the character themselves.

‘Actors use their imaginations all the time,’ Beresford said. ‘And the audience will get to use their imagination too.’

For actress Meghan Logue, a junior at NKU working on her BFA in acting, the concept of portraying a mother to an invisible character in a topical play has become an intriguing venture.

‘It’s really interesting but also awkward,’ Logue said. ‘You have to visualize what the kid looks like and where he moves (on stage).

‘I was worried that it was something a little over my head. I don’t have a child so I can’t relate to the issues. But it is a very exciting challenge.’

Logue is hoping audiences walk away with a better grasp on the challenges of raising an autistic child.

‘I hope people walk away from it with more of a knowledge for how hard it is for families and how it affects them,’ Logue said. ‘It’s just a completely different perspective on the issue.’


Rounding out the triumvirate is ‘Nightjars.

‘Premiering on April 18 in the Corbett Theatre, ‘Nightjars’ is a whodunit mystery from author and playwright Mark Rigney (‘Deaf Side Story: Deaf Sharks,’ ‘Gillian Amber Copes with Miracles’)

It’s about a group of college seniors who meet every week to discuss environmental issues.

When the group concludes that they are all talk and no action, they devise a plan to blow up a local coal plant. But just as they decide not to carry through with their plan, an unnamed person blows it up anyway. The entire group is arrested and questioned by the FBI, who are deadset on finding out who did it.

‘It’s about where we are now and where we will be,’ Sandy Forman, Director of ‘Nightjars,’ said. ‘It deals a lot with the Patriot Act, interrogation methods and the risks of loyalty the group has to each other.’

Cast member Matt Bohnert warned that the interrogation scenes will be very intense.
‘It really pushes the limits on interrogation,’ said Bohnert, a junior and musical theatre major. ‘It’s very cruel. The methods are degrading and demeaning.’

Bohnert believes that amid all of the plays coarse content, it will enlighten people about certain issues.

‘I think it will open audience’s eyes to what’s going on with interrogation,’ Bohnert said. ‘And what will happen to our planet and the environment.’

Despite its topical subject material, Forman is counting on people being entertained by the production.

‘I’m hoping that people will go away thinking about what they have just seen,’ Forman said. ‘ And that they have opinions about the issue.

‘And I hope they get enjoyment out of it,’ Forman said. ‘That’s what theater is about.’