Nov 28, 2011
How does a crazed family reunite to celebrate Christmas? This play’s title suggests an answer: Some Assembly Required. It’s a holiday human comedy opening Dec. 1 for two weekends at HSU.
Entertaining audiences is a goal for any theatrical enterprise, but HSU theatre also has an educational purpose. That’s why students are involved in every production of the Theatre, Film & Dance Department. Their participation is even greater than usual in this show, which has an all-student cast, and several undergraduates with major production responsibilities.
Some Assembly Required is a comedy about a troubled contemporary family, and their outrageous and poignant journey towards improvising a Christmas together. “It’s hilarious but it’s also heartfelt,” says director Rae Robison. “When these grown-up children return to the nest for Christmas, audiences can laugh while they compare the craziness of this family’s holidays to their own.”
There is a gently obsessive father, a disillusioned mother and three grown-up children with a range of problems. The cast also represents a range of student participation. Evan Needham, who plays the father, is an incoming transfer student from College of the Redwoods. He begins his studies in the Theatre, Film & Dance department in the spring semester. Kyle Handziak, who plays the older brother, is at the other end of the process, completing his senior year.
Romy Clugston, who plays the mother, is an exchange student who will return to Australia after this term to continue her studies in theatre there. (She’s been working hard on her American accent, Robison says.) Shea King (younger brother) and Karianne Nelson (middle child) are undergraduates. This is Nelson’s first appearance on the stage.
Undergraduates also get the opportunity to express themselves in the design area. Undergrads Erica Fromdahl designed the show’s costumes, and Telfer James Reynolds designed the lighting.
There’s an educational element in the choice of the play as well. Some Assembly Required is by Canadian playwright Eugene Stickland. Though it’s won prizes in Canada and its been produced more than 30 times, it is rarely performed in the U.S.
Another school—the University of Central Missouri—produced it in 2004, with costumes designed by Rae Robison. Now an HSU professor, Robison applied what she learned there to the production she directs here—particularly what she learned from the playwright himself.
Stickland went to that show and talked to the students in the production. “He’s an incredibly hilarious guy,” Robison recalls. “He came and saw the show, and it was really interesting to hear him talk about it. That production took a fairly absurdist approach. He appreciated what they did, but he talked about the real people and real events that the play was based on in various ways. He stressed the reality behind the absurdity, and so that’s how we’re approaching it here.”
“We started with an image of a snow globe, the kind with a scene inside that you shake up to make it snow,” she explained. “We want to present a real family in this bubble. We don’t know much about them outside this house, but we get to see them deal with their lives and each other inside this bubble.”
Some Assembly Required comes to Gist Hall Theatre Thursdays through Saturdays, Dec. 1-3 and 8-10, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10/$8 with a limited number of free seats to HSU students at each performance, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Rae Robison, produced by HSU Department of Theatre, Film & Dance. “HSUStage.blogspot.com”:http://HSUStage.blogspot.com.