Who: University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program Senior Class
What: “Undiscovered Country” (Das Weite Land) written by Arthur Schnitzler, adapted by Tom Stoppard
When: Oct. 22 through 30
Where: Stoll Thrust Theater in the Rarig Center
It’s a collaboration some University of Minnesota BFA theater students wait their entire college careers for. All previous productions within their graduating class have been in preparation for this finale, exhibiting the work they’ve put into their craft. This event is their final theater production before graduation, and there couldn’t be a better opportunity.
“It’s been really great being in a production with our whole class. We got split up a lot for shows, but this year we’ll all be together. It’s really exciting,” said Jennifer McGraw, who plays Mrs. Rhone in Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of “Undiscovered Country.” This year, John Miller-Stephany has joined the students from the Guthrie Theater. He recently directed this summer’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Guthrie, and the students were ecstatic about having him on board.
“After being in the fourth year of the program, it’s really nice to have someone that — from the beginning — has treated us like professional actors. He’s held us to the highest standard, and we’re starting to feel less like students,” said McGraw.
The University’s acting program is conservatory-styled, but still offers classes in true beaux arts fashion. So if you want to go for a double major in, say, African American Studies, English or something else, you still can.
“So you’re not dedicating yourself solely to acting — you’re getting the exact same training other conservatories would get, but with the liberal arts base. We like to promote thinking artists,” Harold Adam Harris said. Harris plays Mr. Rhone in “Undiscovered Country.”
The play outlines the tangled, comedic lives and loves of Viennese socialites, dabbling in adultery, betrayal, outright lying, and passive-aggressive behavior which could make even the most staunch Minnesotan blush. The love lives are one of the most fascinating aspects of the production, bringing the vile and the beautiful into one theatric, romantic entity.
“They do a lot of forgiving in this play that I didn’t do in my personal experience,” Harris said. “But the fact that you could forgive and then love someone more, that’s a story almost everyone can relate to.”
While the first two acts of “Undiscovered Country” deal with the intricate story-weaving, the third act cuts loose and focuses on the comedic circumstances that the characters find themselves in.
“The third act brings some much-needed levity to the play, most definitely,” McGraw said.
For those who want to see professionally trained actors in a Guthrie-directed play and do not have the dough to put toward a Guthrie-housed production — this is the ticket.
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