How do people accommodate the thing that destroys them? This weekend’s Studio Theater production, “The Arsonists,” seeks to answer that very question.
The show, directed by senior Jennifer Davis, revolves around an upper-middle class man who lives in a town plagued by arsons. A homeless man later visits his house and ends up living in the man’s attic. It becomes a possibility that the homeless man is an arsonist; however, the upper-middle class man does not want to believe it. He continues providing the homeless man with a place to stay.
“He wants to prove to himself that there’s still humanity,” said Davis. “He wants to trust [the homeless man].”
Even when the homeless man stores oil in the attic and becomes potentially dangerous to the man’s family, he struggles with kicking the homeless man and his accomplice out.
“What the play is asking you to do, ultimately, is to think,” said freshman cast member Bob Carey.
Along with the play’s main storyline, there is a modern Greek chorus that provides commentary on the action.
“This is a great opportunity for the Knox campus to see a modern Greek chorus,” said Davis. “The chorus is serving as the guiding eye of the playwright.”
In addition to questioning humanity, the production also deals with themes surrounding social accountability and personal relationships.
“You could apply it to a lot of things going on,” said freshman cast member Josie Dudek.
The show, originally written by Max Frisch and titled “The Fire Bugs,” was performed in translation after 9/11. Davis also remembers seeing the show in London after terrorist bombings.
“It plays on the fact that people are afraid of this,” said Davis. “You can’t know who’s right and who’s wrong.”
Despite the serious subject, the show has many comedic elements to it, especially the way the characters interact with one another to make the show funny, even when the characters are supposed to be serious. Davis said the punch lines are played down so the situation itself is funny.
“It’s going to be hard to keep a straight face,” said Dudek, who’s a member of the chorus and must watch the show on stage without cracking a smile.
“I think that the rhythm and pace of the show will be exciting for the audience,” said Davis. “The show is less than an hour and a half and you won’t be bored for a second of it.”
The cast has been working hard on putting the show together and Davis is pleased with the way it has turned out. Both experienced Knox theater veterans and freshmen worked together during this show.
“It’s been a really great learning experience,” said Dudek.
“I was very lucky to be working with the cast,” said Davis. “They are very talented.”
The show is this Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Studio Theatre, CFA