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Pro­fessor of theatre and dance James Brandon is directing ‘Life is a Dream.’ | Facebook.

Next week swords will flash and guns will fire in Markel audi­torium when the Tower Players perform Pedro Calderón’s tragi­comedy “Life is a Dream.” Shows will run Oct. 3 to 6 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Sat­urday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. 

Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s 20th century Spanish play recalls the ethos of clas­sical Greek tragedies as it explores the tension between fate and the human will. The pro­tag­onist Prince Segis­mundo of Poland exists under a prophecy of destruction pro­claimed at his birth. Clois­tered away in a tower by his fearful father, King Basilio, Segis­mundo learns nothing of his identity and fate until his release, when he is rein­stated due to his father’s change of heart. The ensuing drama chal­lenges Segismundo’s con­ception of reality and ulti­mately brings him to a new under­standing of the good life. 

“It’s a com­mentary on life,” Director James Brandon, pro­fessor of theatre and dance, said. “Per­ception is some­thing that Calderón plays with. How we see things, where we see them from, and how we react when new infor­mation is pre­sented to us, those are a lot of what the play is about.” 

Senior Lane Gaudet, a theatre major, will play Prince Segis­mundo. He said the char­acter has been a chal­lenge to portray since his devel­opment takes such drastic turns throughout the piece. 

“The Segis­mundo at the end is a com­pletely dif­ferent Segis­mundo from act one,” Gaudet said. 

Segismundo’s pro­gression from the shel­tered prisoner of Act 1 to the enlightened prince of Act Three is a violent journey, accen­tuated by duels and battle scenes. 

To work with the cast on the action sequence, the department brought in Kaitlyn Grace, a 2012 alumna and pro­fes­sional fight chore­o­g­rapher. Brandon said Grace has worked with the department once before, three years ago when the Tower Players put on “Twelfth Night.”

“It’s great to have her back,” Brandon said. “She’s got a great energy, and the stu­dents are learning quite a bit from her.” 

“Life is a Dream” will kick off the theatre season with a larger show of a cast of 18 stu­dents, cre­ating the oppor­tunity for freshmen to work with veteran theatre members. 

“It’s been a really exciting expe­rience,” Brandon said. “The stu­dents are really working hard and growing into their roles. They are making dis­cov­eries every night still, and that’s always the sign of a rich, deep dra­matic text.”

Brandon said that with edu­ca­tional pro­duc­tions like this one, he looks for a vibrant, living piece of theatre to direct, keeping the stu­dents in dis­covery-mode right up until the per­for­mance date. 

“I think we will have a good final product,” Brandon said, “but the process has been awesome, and that’s my goal.”