“The Bald Soprano” follows two couples living in the suburbs of London and depicts a dinner meeting hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Smith, attended by Mr. and Mrs. Martin. The absurd situations that come of the play, such as a doorbell ringing several times with nobody being at the door, make for a comedic satire on communication.
Senior and Director Joel Schleicher said “The Bald Soprano” is part of the absurdist movement that came about post-World War II. He said that since everyone in Europe was somehow affected by World War II, the movement was in reaction to the absurdity of the war, and contains themes of the meaning of communication, or lack thereof.
“While there are a fair number of punchlines, a lot of it is uncomfortable. Not enough to make someone need to leave the theatre but like, sitting at a dinner party and nobody’s talking,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable situations, taking that and putting it on stage.”
Schleicher mentioned that the last 20 minutes of the play consists of nonsense, but that there is still a sort of meaning to what the actors are trying to say. While he feels that the play doesn’t necessarily have an apparent underlying theme or message it’s trying to get across, he thinks of it as a look into the way people communicate.
“What I want people to do is to walk away talking about it,” he said. “I want people to think about what the play had to say 50 years ago, but also what it has to say now in a world where we talk behind screens and don’t say what we really mean.”
Senior and Lighting Designer Danielle Freeman feels that the play centers around themes of societal pressures and the desire to know what to say in certain situations. She expressed that the nonsensical aspect of the play allowed audience members to make different interpretations about the meaning of the dialogue.
Since the cast consisted of younger students, who haven’t had quite as much experience with Knox theatre, Freeman thought the rehearsals had a fluid and improvisatory quality that isn’t seen as much with older casts.
“I think the difference is that there’s no pre-determined idea of what they should be doing. So the rehearsals that I’ve been to have always been very fluid, taking suggestions and bouncing off of them. With older casts, they typically will just immediately do this one thing and get it done. Or they’ll have an expectation regarding how a director should direct, or how a rehearsal should go,” Freeman said.
Sophomore Jennie Jeoung and freshman Katherine Asteriadou, who played Mr. Martin and Mary the Maid respectively, attempted to take the nonsense of the script and give meaning to their characters and the dialogue.
“It was hard giving purpose to the character,” Asteriadou said. “We had all these lines that we didn’t understand, that didn’t make sense. So we had a hard time trying to play the character instead of playing the line.”
Asteriadou’s character performs a long poem near the end of the play that centers around the idea. Following Schleicher’s instructions to be “crazy,” she tried to get into the mindset of a pyromaniac who desires to set everything on fire.
“In order to connect with this character, because I’m not a psychopath and I’ve never played a psychopath, I had to make a sub plot and to give meaning to her. Even though she’s an absurd character, I had to give meaning to her,” Asteriadou said.
Rehearsing this poem, according to Schleicher, was one of the most formative moments in realizing the complex meaning behind the play. He mentioned a particular moment in which Asteriadou’s character came to life.
“There was a moment where she just walked through the door and it was immediately clear that she had the character in her head and in her body, and had really taken the time to develop this outside of rehearsal. That character really clicked into being for me. Before, she had dialogue and she was an amusing character but she wasn’t rounded by any means,” Schleicher said.
For Jeoung, difficulty came from trying to memorize lines that had no sense. Ze feels that it was less of a challenge to make sense of the smaller lines and dialogue between other characters, but found the repetitive nature of zis first scene challenging. To combat this obstacle, Jeoung mentioned that ze and the cast members spent time trying to create their own meaning and stories behind their characters.
“Since a lot of the lines didn’t make sense, we tried to kind of translate it into actual human words to make sense of it and kind of put it into a story what the characters want, and the emotion of the lines,” Jeoung said.
Asteriadou feels that the show gave her an opportunity to play a different kind of role than usual, and considers this role to be an important aspect of her growth as a thespian.
“Now I know that I have more potential to play these absurd characters,” she said. “They’re characters that aren’t in my comfort zone. So I had to get out of my comfort zone and try something new and something crazy, something I had never had that opportunity before.”