Augustana play production asks “Why”

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William Sikich

Americans often use entertainment as a means of coping with our atrocities. Of the myriad modern horrors we see in the daily news, school shootings are perhaps the most tragic and impactful.

Tough Cop played by Meghan Gove points a gun at rehearsal on Thursday, Jan. 24. Photo submitted by Ian Murrin.

For this purpose, on Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9, a group of Augustana theatre students — with director Jonathan Quigley — will premiere their production of Victor Kaufold’s “The Why.” The students involved in the show are enrolled in a play production class for their theatre major. For this particular project, each student must fill a role in the dramatic process — director, stage manager, lighting designer, etc. — and ultimately produce a show.
Passionate and eager to begin their titanic work, the students chose something meaningful for their first production; they chose “The Why.”
“The Why” relates the singular tale of Robert, a teenage school shooter, as he speaks with his assigned social worker. Intended to simultaneously induce laughter and contemplation, “The Why” adeptly gives its audience quite a wild ride.
“It’s a tragicomedy,” Quigley said. “When it’s tragic, it is really heart-wrenchingly tragic, but then when its comedic, it’s ridiculous, absurd and just hilarious.”
According to AJ Weber, who plays Robert, the show proves a bit jarring even for the actors involved. As the lead in the show, Weber’s role holds considerable emotional weight. This places him at the center of the drama and chaos on stage.
“At any point in the show, it’s a coin-flip. Sometimes it’ll be the comedic side, and the next scene will be death and destruction,” Weber said.
In addition to providing an entertaining dichotomy of emotions, “The Why” also contains major themes of great substance and import to modern society. As a comedy that focuses chiefly on the subject of school shootings, it has the unique power to comment on the absurdity of the way social media and other sources of influence treat such events.
“One of the things that I think the audience is really going to both enjoy and hate about the show is its ability to make you feel uncomfortable. It portrays a lot of different aspects of society and the media in a very dark, yet also accurate, fashion,” said Quigley. Thus, audience members on Friday and Saturday should get a good return for their time in more ways than one.
Augustana College puts on a lot of shows each academic year, but few of them offer the peculiar amalgamation of profundity and levity you’ll get from “The Why.”
The show will start at 6 p.m. on both days, so anyone who wishes to laugh, cry and ponder away their Friday or Saturday evening, come watch Augustana’s production of “The Why.”
 
Featured Image: 
Mitch, from left, played by senior Rami Halabi, Kelly, played by junior Emma Hydorn, and Zack, played by Jack Harris rehearse on Thursday, Jan. 24. Photo submitted by Ian Murrin.