Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

‘Getting Out’ gets to heart of social justice issues

The Augustana theater department finished their final performance of Marsha Norman’s play “Getting Out” on Feb. 7.
The play was directed by professor Jeff Coussens and revolved around the release of Arlene, a female inmate who has finally been reformed from her violent past.
The leading role of Arlene was played by Sarah Baker, while Megan Hammerer portrayed the troubled woman of the past, Arlie.
Both roles were wonderfully cast, with the actors both looking and acting similarly enough to sell being two versions of the same person.
Hammerer brought fire to the stage with intense explosions of emotion, backed up with an aggressive southern accent that made her effectively frightening at times.
Baker, on the other hand, became her apotheosis as the new Arlene by attempting to be calm, well-tempered and controlled.
Once known as the fierce and hostile Arlie, she decides to change her name to Arlene to start her life over with a clean slate.
However, life it is not so easy for the female protagonist.
Arlene allows herself to be taken advantage of by her friends Bennie (Samuel Langellier), Carl (Gbadebo Balogun), her irate mother (Madison Mortenson),and various briefly-seen others who sap her both physically and emotionally.
Her only dependable friend turns out to be Ruby (Emily Johnson), who helps her pull through all her struggles to finally come out on top.
As the story progresses, the audience sees glances into Arlene’s past as Hammerer portrays the old Arlie in prison while current events are taking place on the same stage.
These include Arlie’s interactions with two guard members (Keenan Odenkirk and Austin Allbert) as they harass and abuse her. The school principal (Sage Shemroske), while short-lived, leaves a long impression on stage after Arlie spits on her face, leading to an explosion of fury. Ronnie (Josh Pride) is a schoolyard bully that rightfully gets what after stealing from Arlie, only to find himself kicked in the groin.
The trouble Arlie gets into leads her to interacting with the warden (Nick Romero) and the doctor (Christine Broughton) both of whom succed in punishing her, yet failed to reach to her as a human. The only one successful in her past is the off-stage minister from the prison that sets Arlie straight.
While understanding what is occurring is slightly confusing at first, it pays off as it eventually ties loose ends and explains the Arlie/Arlene character and why she is who she is.
It is a story with a broad question that is not answered easily. In fact, the ending is rather open ended. However the topic of reformation in today’s prison system is a heavily debated one.
The plot is still very relevant, which was enjoyable to experience. It leaves you with questions rather than being satisfied at the end, which is a good for leaving a lasting impression.
It’s a sad show to see go but was certainly was an intensely emotional ride that was enjoyable to the audience. Aiding the actors was the ambiance and production value of the set.
Andy Gutshall, the Augustana theatre technical director and scenic designer, led set construction.
The set included a working sink and a jail cell made from scratch with welded iron bars.
The set construction crew did a marvelous job of designing and developing a background setting that equally represents both a dark, depressing prison cell and a run-down home in the slums.
Costumes designed by Ellen Dixon and her student workers produced an effective wardrobe that fit the hopelessness of the set and the varying problems underlying each character.
The setting as a whole created a perfect backdrop. It looked just real enough to maintain the stage illusion, while also symbolically representing the prison that made up Arlene’s daily life.
Both cast and crew bring together a hard-hitting story that tackles a prevalent issue in society today.
The theatre department will be performing the musical “Sweeney Todd” this coming spring.
For more upcoming events, go to

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Augustana Observer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
‘Getting Out’ gets to heart of social justice issues