March 1, 2013 - 5:00am

Ross Desprez, instructor in VIU’s Theatre department hopes that audiences will leave the upcoming production of *The Rimers of Eldritch*, wondering ‘what the heck it was all about’.

“This is a really challenging play, both in its subject matter, which is mature, and from an acting standpoint,” says Desprez, who is also directing the play. “My hope is that the performance will stay with our audiences and really make them think about what was going on and how the messages might speak to what’s happening in our own society.”

The play, written in 1966 by Lanford Wilson, revolves around the murder of the town’s hermit. He’s shot by a citizen of Eldritch who thinks the hermit is attacking a woman. The truth is the hermit was trying to help the young woman who had been sexually assaulted by someone else. The citizens of the town are reluctant to give up their version of reality and, each in their own way, conspire to cover up what really happened. The ‘rimers’ of the title refers to a thick frost alluding to the idea that the truth is buried deep under a layer of ice.

It’s a play that requires its actors to dig deep, sinking their teeth into extremely emotional moments.

Jessie Smith, first year Theatre student, is a bit concerned audiences might be upset by the darker material, but she’s relished the opportunity to explore a dramatic role.

“Some of the topics in the play are very emotional – murder, sexual violence, lies, truth. My hope is that it will open people up to really talk about these issues rather than just avoiding them.”

“The material is also making us work really hard,” says Samantha Pawliuk, who is in her second year of the Theatre Diploma. “The subject matter itself is challenging, of course, but the play’s timeline is disjointed, flashing to the past then back to the present, and there are no scene changes. All of this means the audience is relying on us to convey when and where the action is taking place.”

Both Meegin Sullivan, second year Theatre student, and Kyle Thorpe, first year Theatre student, feel the play has required them to collaborate and put a lot of care and attention into preparing for the scenes.

“It’s an ensemble piece and there aren’t any real ‘stars’. All of us are on stage at the same time and really relying on each other for cues,” says Sullivan. “So we have to work together so that each scene comes together as it should.”

Thorpe says a lot of thought is being put into each scene, in particular the assault scene, where he’s one of the main characters. “We’re carefully blocking it out and taking our time. We have to trust each other but we also have to convince the audience that something terrible has just happened. So it’s a real challenge.”

The shifting timeline makes the play even more challenging, as does the fact the scene changes are done solely with lighting, rather than with different backdrops and props. That means the behind-the-scenes crew has to take on a starring role.

“The lights are critical as they cue the audience to where the actors are, both in terms of the timeline and also in terms of the scene,” says Michelle McAulay. She’s doing a double minor in Theatre and Creative Writing, and responsible for the lighting.

“For example, there are a couple of scenes that take place in a forest so we’ve used colour and texture – soft green lights and leaf patterns – to demonstrate the location.”

The costumes are also key as they set the overall tone. As Shanae McGladrey, fourth year Theatre student and Assistant to the Costume Designer, says, “An actor on stage without costumes and lights is a mime in the dark.”

She worked closely with Desprez and Brian Ball, the Costume Designer, to try and realize his vision and also design the costumes to help the audience understand where the characters are in terms of location, people, and the type of town they’re living in.

The play runs from March 7-13 with both matinee and evening performances. Because of the mature subject matter it’s not recommended for children. But Desprez believes adults will appreciate the complex themes of *The Rimers of Eldritch* and get them thinking.

“We all have secrets and masks we wear. This play will open up a discussion about how those secrets and masks can really damage the people around us and indeed, our society.”

Tickets are $10 for students and seniors; $12 for adults and it all takes place at the Malaspina Theatre on VIU's Nanaimo campus.

For more information contact Cassie Smith, go to VIU’s [Events Listings]( or call the Malaspina Theatre Box Office at 250.740.6100 to reserve tickets.

Tags: In the Community

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