On Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. the School of Stage and Screen presented their rendition of the play “Angels in America; Part 1: Millennium Approaches” in Hoey Auditorium. Directed by Dustin Whitehead, the Tony Kushner play was a perfect representation of raw, gritty emotions and life’s challenges.
Before the play began, students, staff and individuals from the community filled the seats of the auditorium. Laughter and chatter could be heard as anticipation for the night’s show fueled the conversations. Once the lights dimmed and the stage gleamed a blue hue, the crowd’s murmuring came to a halt.
The stage could be described as desolate. It was completely white and consisted of small props that were white as well. This allowed the audience to create their own world within the scenes presented to them. Only lighting and projected images were used to set the tone and the mood.
During the first act, three storylines were introduced: The first was that of a homosexual couple, Louis and Prior, who dealt with the hardships of contracting Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS; the second, a married heterosexual couple named Harper and Joe, faced divorce, drug addiction and sexual inadequacy; the third storyline followed Roy, a bigshot lawyer who was in denial after he contracted AIDS from sexual encounters with men.
After the first act, several individuals in the crowd utilized their time to take a break and stretch their legs. Murmurs about the first few scenes penetrated the air as tension amongst the crowd began to dissipate.
“To be honest, I was taken aback,” said sophomore, Alex Cashe. “I like the deeper meaning the play is portraying…how all people, no matter their sexuality, race or religion are still human beings.”
The play is based on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV/AID epidemic during the 1980s, and reflected a time when gays were blamed for the disease outbreak. It sought to enlighten its audience on the controversial issues that can even be seen today: issues such as how important it is to support one another, along with the injustices and the intolerances of the world.
Senior, Kelsey Aycock stated, “Loved it! It was beautiful and symbolic. We can use the problems of the past to teach us about the things today, even if it’s not the same issue.”
The characters faced difficulties within their relationships, but also within society. Joe, a Mormon closeted gay man struggled with coming out to his wife as she clung to reality with shaking hands. He represented all the men in the world who want to fit into the straight box society has conditioned them to believe they should fit into: A family man with a wonderful job and devotion to God.
Prior was the saddest, yet one of the strongest characters in the play. He contracted the HIV virus and then AIDS. His partner, Louis, could not fathom that he was going to die, so he left him to deal with this hardship on his own. His character was relatable to so many people across the United States then and now.
Attendees were in the audience for several different reasons. Some were there for a class requirement, and others were there to simply enjoy it. Many were present in support of the cast members.
Sophomore Malik Pratt stated, “I came in support of the stage manager, Kacey Shepherd. I was very surprised by the dark tone of the play. Although it was dark, the message was real.”
As the second act began, the number of individuals in the crowd decreased. This could be due to the hard topics covered in the play, or maybe the uncomfortable nature of it all. It is hard to say.
By the end of the play, many of the individuals of the crowd had left. It could be due to the sex scene between two men, which left the crowd gasping and stunned. Still, the performers powered through and continued portraying important concepts that are so often ignored.
It took hard work and dedication to deliver such a passionate play. The cast worked hard on making sure the production was a success and that the message of the play was received by the audience. They delivered their lines and met their cues incredibly.
“This production has been such a pleasure to work on. Never have I ever been pushed so hard as an actor,” stated senior Briar Boggs. “So, if I could give any insight on what this story means to me, I would say, ‘Be who you want to be, and never let anyone affect that for you.’”
Behind the scenes was just as difficult as on stage. There were four doors that opened on cues based on characters’ lines, and a person was stationed at each door to make sure it opened and closed at the right time.
Stage manager and sophomore, Kacey Shepherd stated, “It was tech hard, even for the actors, but rewarding.”
The play ended with a cliffhanger, as Part I closed with Prior becoming a prophet after meeting an angel, and Part II will not be produced this school year.
All in all, the play was a true masterpiece that seemed to successfully convey the powerful messages it was aiming to display to the audience.
If you would like to see more productions by the School of Stage and Screen, check out their website at www.wcu.edu/bardo-arts-center/performance-hall/school-of-stage-and-scree..., or call 828-227-2479.