From left to right, Emma Ditnes, Sarah Viniar and Jillian Schwab star in Arcadia University Theater's production of ‘On the Verge.’
By SARAH R. SCHWARTZ ’10 Photography FIG TREE PHOTOGRAPHY
Leave your space suit at home and conquer the last great unknown in heels, high buttons and pith helmets. Arcadia University Theater’s current production, On the Verge,directed by Kevin Marini, follows three female Victorian explorers into what they believe to be an uncharted land. While negotiating strange encounters, the trio finds that there’s more to Terra Incognita than meets the eye: They’re exploring the fabric of time.
“Travelling through the fabric of time is definitely a unique experience, especially on stage,” says Sara Viniar, who plays Alexandra, the trouser wearing, Kodak-carrying explorer. Without elaborate stage effects, it’s mostly up to the actors to create the illusion of traversing an icy tundra in one scene or tropical swamp. They bring the play’s ever-changing landscapes to life through physical acting and a few modern dance numbers, which they perform in full skirts or petticoats while toting machetes. The actors’ movements are fun to watch and propel the fast-paced comedy forward.
Staging a show that takes place in several different eras and geographic locations is incredibly difficult, but Michael Kerns, Arcadia’s Production Manager and Set Designer, was up to the challenge. Drawing inspiration from his work as technical director with renowned puppeteer Basil Twist, Kerns constructed a forced perspective set that expands the depth of the MainStage upstage while maintaining usable wing space. To allow for quick changes in the scenery, Kerns created a series of sliding Japanese screens. Each one effectively frames a setting without imposing on what the audience might imagine. The design frees the actors to move about, whether they’re whacking through the bush or tiptoeing Himalayan cliffs.
“There is a slight trepidation combined with child-like observation that compounds at every turn [of the production],” says Jillian Schwab, who plays Fanny, the most conservative of the time-traveling trio. “I can only describe it as the feeling of deja-vu on metabolic steroids in reverse.”
Word play is paramount in Eric Overmyer’s script. To navigate some of its intricate, esoteric language, the cast spent many days before rehearsal on Google and dictionary.com learning definitions of words and analyzing the context in which they’re used. Their studies paid off. On stage, they carry the audience along a current of delightfully syncopated speech and melodic cadences.
Emma Ditnes, who plays Mary, the no-nonsense leader, compares the role of time-traveler to that of geographic explorer. Both set out to experience the unfamiliar: a fitting and familiar experience in the Arcadia community. Yet, regardless of the number of passport stamps accumulated—real or imagined—Ditnes is confident that the show will resonate with all audiences.
“On the Verge is a metaphor for life,” says Ditnes. “It’s is a journey that we take alongside many others, [but] every person’s journey is different. Some people are called to write pop songs, some are meant to go bowling, and others are meant to explore.”
General admission – $15
Arcadia students – Free with ID
Non-Arcadia students, senior citizens and Arcadia alumni – $12
Nov. 29, 30, Dec. 1, 6, 7, 8 at 8 p.m.
Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9 at 2 p.m.