Theatre students at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith are tackling how to change the world in the Nov. 29-Dec.1 production of “The Big Funk” by John Patrick Shanley.
The show, which is free, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at UAFS at Second Street, 101 N. 2nd St., and is rated for mature audiences only because of language, nudity and adult themes.
Student director Shawn Mann, a theatre major from Dora, said a lot of people in his generation are unhappy with the way society works.
“Problem is, we don’t ever do anything to change it,” said Mann. “We talk about overthrowing the status quo, about making a difference, and then we sit down and watch TV. This, as the play states, is ‘The Big Funk.’”
Mann said that Austin, the main protagonist, goes on a journey during the course of the play to escape this funk, from being one of the voices to taking action and actually making the world a better place because he’s in it.
“I believe this is a concept that we should all adopt, the idea that in order to make our society better, all we need do is see something wrong and fix it,” he said. “‘The Big Funk’ is a surrealist play, meaning it is really only loosely based in reality, and time rarely works in the way it’s supposed to. Characters get pregnant overnight, get covered in Vaseline and even take baths on stage.”
Mann said the audience should not expect normality.
“There is no fourth wall, so anything can happen at any time, and it could be to you,” he cautioned.
Mann said working on a non-realism play presents the problem of having to deal with a universe that is not like the one lived in.
“It has its own laws, and each character understands how their world works,” he said. “It requires an open-minded, imaginative group of actors to be able to abandon sense and dive into this unknown territory. It’s amazing how complicated the idea that there are no boundaries can be.”
UAFS theatre director Bob Stevenson of Fort Smith applauds the efforts of the cast.
“It’s a new experience for us to be working down at the Second Street facility,” said Stevenson, “and it has also been several years since we had a fully student directed and designed major production, so it’s great for me to get to sit back and mentor instead of doing. We get a chance to let the students do all of the work and see what they’ve learned.”
The cast includes:
Fort Smith: Laura Wineland as Jill and Carly Handy as Fifi.
Hackett: John Hall as Gregory.
Hoxie: Aron Long as Austin.
Liberty, Okla.: Cody Banning as Omar.
For more information, contact Stevenson at 479-788-7303.