Published on February 18th, 2016 | by TLV News0
Ole Miss Theatre Presents: Anton in Showbiz
The first production of 2016 and the third of the Ole Miss Theatre season will be Anton in Show Business. This madcap comedy follows three actresses across the footlights, down the rabbit hole, and into a strangely familiar Wonderland that looks a lot like American theatre. As these women pursue their dream of performing Chekhov in Texas, they’re whisked through a maelstrom of “good ideas” that offer unique solutions to the three sisters’ need to have life’s deeper purpose revealed. In the tradition of great backstage comedies, Anton in Show Business conveys the joys, pains, and absurdities of “putting on a play” at the turn of the century.
The production showcases an all-female cast focusing on satirizing the American theatre and how both audiences and performers can relate to the theatrical experience. The contemporary piece was chosen to balance out the season in a light-hearted fashion.
“A committee chooses about fifty plays and they narrow them down, and Anton in Show Business, this semester, was chosen to balance out Midsummer, which is coinciding with the First Folio coming to Oxford this spring. So, they wanted something contemporary to balance that out,” said head of the design program and director Dex Edwards.
Anton in Show Business uses both the audience’s perspective and the experience of putting on a production akin to the “play within a play” style. The show focus of three women’s different viewpoints performing in a Chekov play in San Antonio, Texas is played very comedic while still remaining contemporarily thought-provoking.
“It’s a play about what theatre has to offer average people … who come in off the street, just anybody who has no experience with theatre. It’s a play about how theatre serves them,” said Edwards.
Most importantly, however, the show is funny, according to Edwards. The purpose of the piece is to make the audience laugh, and it achieves this goal through both zany low-brow comedy and intelligent wit. Whether you laugh at slapstick or at satirical jokes, you will laugh.
“It’s a very funny piece, so one of the harder things about this production has been to keep people from cracking each other up. People will break character and start cracking up in the middle of a scene, and that happens constantly in rehearsal. That’s been our biggest challenge–to keep everybody with a straight face because some of it is really very funny,” said Edwards.
One of the other main facets of the show is focused around the all-female cast members who play multiple roles, including that of the opposite gender. Half of the cast members play up to three or more roles onstage and many times in quick succession. Fast-paced costume changes and instantaneous role reversal are constant within the show, allowing each of the actors to feed off of one another.
“It’s a very balanced show. [Of] the six women (the three who play the sisters and the three who play multiple roles) if you asked ‘who has the most lines in the show?’ it’s equal–there is no leading lady. So it’s a complete and total ensemble effort,” said Edwards.
The atmosphere during rehearsals seems to have been a great learning experience for the performers as well. The all-female cast bonded and learned from one another during the process.
“When women work together, it’s a very encouraging, mutually supportive environment. So that’s probably been my favorite thing about rehearsals so far–that unique environment that an all-female cast creates,” said Meredith Dillon a junior Psychology and Theatre Arts double major.
The show also granted younger students an opportunity to work with not only an all-female environment but alongside professional actress and faculty member Kate Hooper. This gave them crucial real-world experience as well as an opportunity to gain insight into the professional world.
“The casting was different. We have one senior and everybody else is either sophomores or freshmen, with the exception of one guest artist, who is faculty from another department. She’s been a professional actress and having the students work with her and see her model behavior on how to work a rehearsal has been super valuable to them,” said Edwards.
The comedy will show in Meek Auditorium February 17-28. Night performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 pm. Matinee performances will be Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are available at the UM Box Office or online at theatre.olemiss.edu.
In addition, Ole Miss Theatre is continuing its “Patron Appreciation Night,” which will be the first Friday of each production. Only patrons, season ticket holders, and Friends of Ole Miss Theatre will be able to purchase tickets for these performances, providing the perfect environment for those who enjoy the magic of the theatre. Anton in Show Business Patron Appreciation Night will be Friday February 19.
“It’s the perfect marriage between ‘Oh I can sit back and kind of participate in some nice escapism and enjoy some laughs in these people’s lives for a few hours’ with ‘how does this play into my own life, how is this going to make me think,’” said Dillon.