Freshmen Gabriel Meyers and Seth Winter practice “The Sur­prise.” JoAnna Kroeker | Col­legian

Sur­prise! It’s a play not put on by theater stu­dents. 

Sword fights, falling in love all of a sudden, and an unex­pected ending: G.K. Chesterton’s play “The Sur­prise” has all the ele­ments to delight audi­ences and make them think. 

Inde­pendent stu­dents will present “The Sur­prise” this weekend in Mauck Dor­mitory. Showings of the 80-minute play are Sat­urday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. It’s the story of an author who struggles with the fact that he has created char­acters, whom he loves, but is frus­trated that they cannot be autonomous. 

“I think it’s neat that it’s not a theater department show, or Shake­speare in the Arb, because that shows some drive right there,” stage manager junior Tova Forman said. “It’s unlikely.” 

The germ of the idea was freshman Seth Winter’s, the vice pres­ident of the G.K. Chesterton Society. Over Christmas Break, he con­sidered putting on the play since his schedule was not too heavy. But Winter is the ideas man, and he said he is grateful that Forman and junior Rebecca Carlson, who plays Princess Christina, came on board to actu­alize the play, from stage-man­aging to gath­ering cos­tumes. 

Getting the actors together was a piecemeal process that hap­pened pri­marily through word-of-mouth. Seven actors com­prise the cast, with junior Karen Fuchs on trumpet, Forman as stage manager, and help from senior Nikolai Dignoti. 

The play has a range of stu­dents: four freshmen, a sophomore, and two juniors. 

“We’ve got some quirky-in-a-good-way people,” Winter said. “All of us are really quirky people.”

Quirky people for quirky, Chester­tonian char­acters. 

“Chesterton is such a fan­tastic writer, so to hear his voice through all the char­acters is a fun time,” freshman Gabriel Meyers, who plays Oliver Oli­varez said.  

Winter said the ending is off-the-wall and will leave people won­dering, what hap­pened? At first, Forman, who was reading a Google Books preview with pages missing, said she wasn’t sure if she actually reached the end or if Google had lifted out another page. 

Carlson had a similar expe­rience.

“I read it for the first time at the read-through with the cast, and I read it and said, ‘Oh, that changes things!’ I’ll have to go back and reread the beginning now,” Carlson said. “But I think it makes sense.” 

Forman said the story’s con­fusion can be endearing.

“I love and hate Chesterton’s works because they confuse me, which is quite good,” Forman said. “If he con­fuses me, he often does so to put me in my place, which is relaxing, because I keep on trying to under­stand every­thing about the humor, and then he con­fuses me, and I appre­ciate that.” 

Forman said that given the other things cast members need to mem­orize and no credits incen­tivizing them, the question arises: “Why on earth did we put it on?” Her answer is that it’s for their love of Chesterton, and with a fun and ener­getic group. As it’s a play about artistry that involves putting artistry in, it also makes her think about what she’s doing.

“I’m kind of shocked that we tried to do this, but it’s coming together and I think it’s so neat that we’re doing this without the theater department or any credit,” Forman said.  

Carlson works for the theater department, spending a lot of time there. She said that she and the theater department agree that there should be as much theater on campus as humanly pos­sible — so long as it doesn’t cause con­flicts. 

For “The Sur­prise,” that meant sched­uling rehearsals that weren’t at the same time as the “The Italian Straw Hat,” in which fellow cast-member Gabriel Meyers has a role, or Tower Dancers, which Carlson stage directed.

According to Forman, Chesterton can balance humor and pro­fundity: “He’s very good at being serious and funny at the same time, because they’re not oppo­sites for him.”

“The Sur­prise” has philo­sophical themes for the philo­soph­i­cally inclined, and, as Forman put it, “frothy fun, whim­sical wit” for those who wish to be delighted by imag­i­native love stories, sword fights, and word play in a medieval setting. The themes pre­sented in the play even fit the reli­gious themes of this weekend: Palm Sunday. 

Forman, still chewing on the ending, said that she would love to talk about the play afterward.

“Theater, music, and art exhibits, and all of those sorts things that are, strictly speaking, optional unless you’re in a par­ticular class, are really worth­while,” Carlson said, “even though they take time away from homework and ‘serious aca­demic dis­ci­plines.’” 

The event is not ticketed, and first come, first seated.