Christmas in Macedonia
A group of Southwestern theatre professors and students will be thinking about angels in December, but not in the way you might expect.
The group is helping bring residents of Macedonia (a country that used to be part of the former Yugoslavia) their first production of the Tony Award-winning play “Angels in America.” It will be performed in Macedonian.
Jared J. Stein, a visiting assistant professor of theatre who is also involved with a New York-based company called Fourthworld Theatre Projects, was asked to direct the play. He enlisted the help of Sergio Costola, associate professor of theatre, to serve as dramaturg and Desi Roybal, associate professor of theatre, to design the set for the play. Three students are going to help as well: Junior theatre major Becca Plunkett will serve as assistant director, senior theatre major Kinsey Keck will serve as a costume and acting intern, and junior theatre major Tyler King will serve as a set and dramaturg intern.
The three professors left in late November and the students will join them as soon as classes end for the semester. All six will be there through the month of December, including Christmas.
All said they are looking forward to it, even though it will mean giving up the holiday with family and friends.
“‘Angels in America’ is a really fantastic play. To be part of it – even if it is in another language – will be fun,” Kinsey said.
“Angels in America” is Tony Kushner’s play dealing with AIDS and many other aspects of America in the 1980s. While the play has been widely performed in the English-speaking world (and was even the subject of an HBO miniseries), this will be one of the first times it will be performed for audiences in Eastern Europe.
“We’ve had many discussions of what this play might mean to them,” Costola said. “We realized that many of themes in the play are very pertinent now to the situation in Europe.”
Theatredreams, which is based in Sofia, Bulgaria, is co-producing the play along with the Skopje Dramsky Theatre in Skopje, Macedonia. Stein said Theatredreams picked “Angles in America” to stage in Macedonia because it deals with a lot of themes that are not spoken about frequently there. “Hopefully the audiences will be able to find some personal connections to the play,” he said.
Stein said “Angels in America” is an extremely challenging play to stage because it is set in 20 different locales and has 40 scene shifts. “Kushner provides an excessive amount of ideas but he doesn’t address how they are to be accomplished,” he said. This will be Stein’s first time directing the play. He plans to stage it in its entirety.
Stein made a trip to Macedonia in June to cast the play and meet the artistic director. Since then, he has been communicating with colleagues in Macedonia via SKYPE.
The cast will rehearse the play eight hours a day for five weeks. It is expected to open around Dec. 29 at the Skopje Dramsky Theatre.
Costola and Roybal received funding for the trip as part of sabbaticals this year. Southwestern and Fourthworld Theatre Projects are providing funds for the students to get to Macedonia.
While Macedonia is the poorest country in the former Yugoslavia, Costola said it has a rich artistic tradition. “The actors there are extremely well-educated and have lots of ideas,” he said.
After the performances in Skopje, the play will travel around Macedonia and other Eastern European countries.