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.”