Harper Joy presents ‘The Skin of Our Teeth’

Clara Bartlett

After many hours of memorization, blocking, acting, set and light designing, rehearsing, directing and perfecting, the opening night of  “The Skin of Our Teeth”, directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Chris Petit, is finally here.

From Thursday, Oct. 20 through Sunday, Oct. 23, Harper Joy Theatre will present “The Skin of Our Teeth” by Thornton Wilder, a hilarious semi-absurdist tragicomedy with elaborate sets and technical designs and a lively, complex array of characters.

Attending an evening rehearsal, The Pioneer interviewed some members of the cast about their feelings heading into opening weekend.

Credit: Allie Felt

“I definitely feel like it’s come together. The three of these: Charlie, Caitlin and Morgan: are fantastic actors and actresses,” said senior David Otten. “Chris has definitely provided us with great ideas and great direction as well.”

However, despite the generally pleased mood of the cast as opening night approaches, “The Skin of Our Teeth” is no actor or director’s walk in the park.

With themes as broad as the existence of mankind and the challenge of extravagant technical designs,”The Skin of our Teeth” proves to be equally demanding for director, actor and technical designer alike.

“It’s really gonna be a spectacle when everything’s finally put together,” said first-year Evelyn Levine.

“This is a beast of a play, in a good way,” said senior theatre major and lead actress Caitlin Goldie. “It’s really just tackling mankind, sort of, like, the cyclical nature of existence, and how mankind tends to repeat itself and find itself with the same problems over and over again.”

Senior and lead actor Charlie O’Rourke explained further.

“The most challenging thing for me is to compete with some of the technical aspects of the show. There is so much cool stuff going on technically that I find myself getting lost and out of character because there are so many distractions, especially in Act II,” said O’Rourke.

“This is quite an event as you saw [pointing to elaborate set on stage], so we’re trying to find a way to do that with grace,” said Petit.

Ultimately, some of the elaborate set designs proved too much for the production. Assistant Professor of Theatre Greg Mitchell took a moment from hectic rehearsals on Wednesday, Oct. 19 to discuss the decision to streamline.

“On this play we took a lot of large risks,” said Mitchell. “You never know quite if anything’s going to work out: we found that with some of what we were doing that it just wasn’t feasible. There was a serious amount of construction and very heavy rigging. It was enormous. We just found that we were detracting from the show by having a really monumental scene change two times in the middle of a three hour long show, so we decided to simplify in certain ways.”

Though dealing with heavy themes like history, religion and family structures, the play is uniquely relatable and entertaining, in that its true meaning is left open to the opinion of the audience.

“My feeling was that [the play] showed kind of the collective struggle that we’re going through and we’re going through that right now, I think, as a nation,” said Petit.  “And I think it offers a hopeful perspective on how to deal with these things.”