Follow 21-year-old Leo Joseph-Connel to New York city after a bicycle trip across the country in the contemporary play, “4000 miles.”
A 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama, written by Amy Herzog, the theatre and dance department will open its drama,”4,000 Miles,“ Nov. 2 at Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre. Leo, played by theatre and dance junior Garrett Lamoureux, experiences a traumatic event and is thrown out of his girlfriend’s living quarters. He finds himself in Greenwich village on the doorstep of his 91-year-old grandmother, Vera Joseph, played by communication studies lecturer Erma Stauffer.
“It’s not one of those plays where you have to ask yourself, ‘What is the meaning?’” Director Alvin Schnupp said. “It’s not obscure. It’s just a really good story with interesting characters.”
Over the course of one month, Leo and Vera, reunited after years apart, learn more about each other than ever before. The play provides doses of humor and drama alike as the two navigate a friendship through their 70-year age difference.
“They share some really fun secrets and they help each other to grow,” Schnupp said. “It’s about their heartaches and their healing and their company.”
Telling a story through the set
The story could not be told without the intricacy and design of the set. Set designer Tim Dugan was met with the challenge of creating the aesthetic of a 91-year-old woman’s apartment that had been lived in for decades — all in less than four weeks.
“What I tried to do with the set is create that sense of who Vera is and then create an opportunity for Leo to come into that world and be a part of it and have that be expressed somehow,” Dugan said.
The apartment set, filled with old books, photographs, a Scrabble board and artwork fits the picture of an older woman’s home. But Dugan wanted to account for the physical and metaphorical changes Leo brought through Vera’s door as well.
“You’ll see that the bike comes through the front door at the top of the show. It gets parked in the hallway and the bike never leaves the stage. It’s always there. That’s him coming into her world and having a presence there,” Dugan said.
Finding common ground
The interaction between young Leo and older Vera regarding their age difference is not only reflected in the set, it’s a large theme in the story of the play. While the generational gap can create differences, it also creates a learning experience.
“What the different generations can teach each other and the fun they can have together is unique,” Schnupp said. “The grandmother is so complex and interesting and in our heart, there are many times where she is 21 years old.”
Over the course of one month, through arguments over technology, heated political discussions and mourning loved ones, Leo learns about his grandmother’s heart and history in a whole new light.
“Leo and Vera have so much common ground,” Lamoureux said. “I think that people can realize from the show that you have more common ground with people of other ages and generations than you really think. But if you don’t try to meet them in the middle, you’ll never know.”
Lamoureux found a similar experience in working with Stauffer, a lecturer, and the only actor in the play who is not a student. While differences were apparent to him at first, he found more common ground than he realized.
“I’ve never worked with someone who wasn’t a student before, and honestly, I was so scared. We had so many scenes together, and I was wondering how I was going to relate to her,” said Lamoureux. “But when we sat down and started talking, we could immediately relate. She’s sweet and incredible and humble, and she adds something new to the performance every night.”
The play will run for two weekends, Nov. 2-4 and 9-11, at 8 p.m. in Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre. Tickets are available for purchase online and at the Performing Arts Center ticket office.