By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant
Here’s a challenge from the Department of Theatre and Speech: find a date for Valentine’s Day and go to the Ward Theatre in the UTC Fine Arts Center to discover the origin of the phrase, “Hell is other people.”
“It is the story of three people trapped together for eternity. Hell is this room that they cannot escape and they’re trying to survive and figure out who they are based on people who are strangers to them,” explains Gaye Jeffers, associate professor of theatre and the director of the play.
No Exit was written in 1944 by Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, literary critic, and political activist.
“This play is kind of a classic of world literature. It’s kind of the quintessential existential play. A lot of people have read the play, but not a lot of people have ever seen it. So now people have the chance to actually see the theatrical version instead of just reading the script,” says Jeffers.
The play was written during World War II and explores some of the heavy themes brought about by that time period, but the play won’t be without comedy.
“I don’t want people to be put off because it’s a heavy play. There are some very serious things that the playwright was addressing, but we have found some comedic moments,” says Jeffers. “I’m hoping we’ll allow a little bit of self-recognition to occur. We’ve tried to portray some things we would probably all think, feel, and do if we were trapped in a room with strangers, so hopefully those things will be kind of light and funny and serve to remind us how we might act in these situations.”
The play will also feature surprises that you will just have to see to discover.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but the design choices that we’re making are going to be surprising for some people,” says Jeffers. “The use of lights is going to be impactful and unexpected. In most theater productions, you only see the theater lights focus on the actors on the stage. We’re kind of using lights to focus on other parts of the theater as well. It will be kind of an event where the audience will be involved in a way that they might not normally be involved. There are some surprises I don’t want to give away what will be thematically important and will make the audience physically feel something instead of just thinking about things in their head.”
The hour and a half production features only four actors on stage, but it will have fifteen to twenty people participating backstage in lighting, sound, costuming, and other jobs.
“It has been a great challenge for our student actors, because it is a difficult play in many ways. I try to find what is special about the interpretation that we can all bring to the play. I think it’s going to be a really great performance,” says Jeffers.
Tickets are available in the UTC Fine Arts Center Box Office from 10 to 4, Monday through Friday. Tickets are $10 for students and senior citizens and $12 for general admission. Tickets are also available online at Ticket Tracks.