Cal Poly students acting in the absurdist piece “The Bald Soprano” will not only discuss human communication, the lack thereof and what could be done to improve it, they will also share real stories about their lives, which will help students relate to them and the show.
The Bald Soprano, presented by Cal Poly theatre and dance department, will premiere tonight at Spanos Theatre at 8 p.m.
“I picked this play knowing I wanted to integrate the stories of the students into the play,” said director Al Schnupp.
“The Bald Soprano,” a world-renowned play by Eugene Ionesco, was originally written in French. Rather than following a specific storyline, the play is a collage of ideas and words that will try to remind audiences of contemporary American culture.
The play features six characters: The Smiths, a traditional London couple, the Martins, another couple, Mary the maid and the local fire chief. While they experience miscommunication, they share intimate stories about themselves to the audience that have shaped their attitudes and essentially made them who they are.
“We have this juxtaposition of a theatrical world and the real world,” said Thomas Bernard, assistant professor of costume design in Cal Poly theatre and dance department.
“My favorite thing is the contrast,” added Schnupp. “It is fun to go back and forth between the two worlds: the heartfelt stories and then the bizarre craziness of the characters.”
The play brings all of the characters together in an environment of pure absurdity where they hold meaningless conversations devoid of logic. Cal Poly’s version of the play also shows the characters embracing contemporary American culture and taking part in electronic gadgets, celebrity and the media’s sensationalism.
“It’s something that our students don’t have many opportunities to experience and I think Al (Schnupp) has done some pretty unique things with the show that really make it more accessible to our students,” said Tim Dugan, chair of the theatre and dance department. “It’s really kind of a unique interactive piece the way they have approached it.”
The set is equipped with a network of cubicles that both protect and keep the characters isolated. Each cubicle is a kind of storeroom of strange props and distinctive attire that sheds light on the concerns and fears that the characters have.
The costume designer and director wanted the actors’ costumes to be as absurd as the play itself.
“‘The Bald Soprano’ is an absurdist piece, so we did absurd things,” said Bernard, who designed each costume for “The Bald Soprano,” which is his first production at Cal Poly.
The use of words on costumes was a critical starting point for the designer. The discussion of the choice of words and their meanings led to an array of bizarre and illogical outfits that fit well into the play.
Costumes range from one that has a No Smoking sign on it, along with other symbols like a martini glass.
One female character has her phone number on her leg to represent the extremes society will go to for advertising and how effective advertising can be. For example, one character covered in wires has a MySpace page on his back and his photo is on the front of his costume.
“I loved working on the costumes so much,” said Bernard. “I had a great director who brought collaboration to the project. I think (the piece is) a tribute to working together and coming together on an idea.”