NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College continues to live up to its “reputation for performing interesting and new titles” with its production of Lisa Kron’s comedy Well.
The play will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 24, 25 and 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus.
“[Well is] very hard to synopsize because it doesn’t follow a traditional plot,” says John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts and director of Well. “Basically, [Kron is] doing a multi-character theatrical exploration of health and illness, both in the individual and in the community.”
An autobiographical play, Well begins with playwright and protagonist Lisa Kron, played by senior Caitlin Buerge, Kansas City, Mo., stating her intention for the work as a commentary on health and wellness issues. This holds true as both Lisa and her mother, Ann Kron, played by Kelly Reed, junior from Edinburg, Texas, deal with “undefined maladies” they attribute to “allergies.”
However, despite the protagonist’s declarations to the contrary, the play also becomes a study of a mother-daughter relationship. Race issues factor in as the audience learns that Ann Kron was a leader in the movement to racially integrate her community.
“Not only is Well a comedy,” says McCabe-Juhnke, “it also asks serious questions about how we deal with differences – between generations and between races – in ways that help us live together happily in communities and families.”
While the script of Well is multi-faceted and unconventional, Lisa Kron has proven to have the talent and experience to make it succeed. Born in Michigan, Kron moved to New York in 1984 to further her career writing for and performing in the theater. She currently serves as a professor at Yale Drama School, where she teaches playwriting.
Kron won the Cal/Arts Alpert Award and has received playwriting fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation as well as other organizations. After its Broadway debut in spring 2006, Well garnered her two Tony Award nominations.
As one critic wrote, although Kron’s plays “are based on autobiographical material, the effect is universal. The work resonates with questions, desires and fears that lead [viewers] into their own journey.”
While Well’s main character, Lisa Kron herself, “protests that this play isn’t about her relationship with her mother, we find out that it really is,” says McCabe-Juhnke. “The mother is responsible for the multi-character development. She provides the sense of comedy – how Lisa loses control of the drama she is trying to create as her mother continually intervenes and things fall apart.”
This subversion of expectations – both “the standards expectations of a play” and “conventional avant-garde expectations” – make Kron’s work original, refreshing and challenging, McCabe-Juhnke says.
“The comedy in my character, as a member of the ensemble, often occurs in the moments when the play within the play falters and I become myself reacting to any of a number of absurd events that disrupt Lisa’s performance,” says Aimee Siebert, junior from Topeka. “However, I also have a character named Joy who is rather funny. I’ve been given the direction to play her like ‘Eeyore with an edge.’ Joy is a know-it-all and a pessimist and she periodically has allergic fits that make her manic – all great ingredients for comedy.
“It has been both a joy and a challenge to work in a play that is so conscious of itself,” Siebert continues. “Finding the line between playing a character in the play within a play whose plot and direction isn’t written all that well, and playing myself who is playing that character while also being influenced by various interruptions to the play within the play, is tough but enjoyable.
“It’ll be even better if you come see it,” she says, “and you might even get a souvenir.”
“[Well is] a different sort of comedy in that it’s not plotted in traditional ways,” McCabe-Juhnke adds, “but that’s part of what makes it so much fun. It really is fun, and I hope people will come out to see it.
“It is a very interesting exploration of the literary form,” he says. “A lot of the humor [deals with] the relationship between theater and drama. The construction of the script is very clever – it will delight with its surprises and the twists and turns of the plot.”
“For people interested in health, race relations and a good time, this would be a good play to see.”
Cast members, in addition to Buerge and Reed in the two major roles, are Bridget Kratzer, senior from North Newton, Jonathan Nathan, senior from Moundridge, Aimee Siebert, junior from Topeka, and Caleb Stephens, freshman from Lawrence.
The creative designer is Kate Larson, senior from Clay Center. Technical director is Tim Buller, assistant professor of system administration. Stage manager is Amanda Diaz, junior from Berwyn, Ill.
Tickets for Well are $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and non-Bethel students and $3 for children ages 3-12 (Bethel students are free). Purchase tickets at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center, open Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., or by calling (316) 284-5205 (a credit card is required for phone purchases), or in the Fine Arts Center ticket office before each performance.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu