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Woyzeck brings “working class tragedy” to Wright Hall
California Aggie article, February 26, 2015

The UC Davis’ Department of Theatre and Dance’s winter production of Woyzeck is set to open on Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. The production will run through March 8 in the main theatre at Wright Hall.

The play, written by German dramatist Georg Büncher, tells the story of the eponymous protagonist, Franz Woyzeck, a working class man who deals with psychological trauma. The story explores themes of class, violence and the fragility of the human psyche. The Theatre Department’s Granada Artist-in-Residence, Bob McGrath, will direct Neil LaBute’s adaptation of Woyzeck.

“Neil came and saw a play I did at the Brooklyn Academy of Music,” McGrath said. “We introduced ourselves and we seemed to get on real good and he asked me if I ever wanted to do a play by him and that he’d be into it. I said yes and he suggested [Woyzeck]. I knew this play, but the idea of an adaptation of it by him sounded fantastic and we went for it.”

In an effort to further immerse the audience in the bleak atmosphere of Woyzeck­ ­– set in what McGrath calls a “nightmarish version of 1930s Shanghai” – the director heavily utilizes projections, one of McGrath’s stylistic anchors.

“I started doing that 25-30 years ago. I grew with the technology.” McGrath said. “I wasn’t the first one to do it, but I was early at the party.”

In these past 30 years, the technology for stage projections has grown exponentially. He will project images using a scrim. A scrim is mesh material, kind of like cloth backdrop, that extends from the top of the stage to the bottom. Christian Hebron, a second-year dramatic arts major, has not only been involved with the setup of the scrims, but all of the other technical aspects of the play.

“We deal with every aspect,” Hebron said. “From how a scene looks to how the lights are hung, [from achieving] the director’s vision [to deciding] where the actors stand.”

The deck crew started their work on the play a week before “tech week” (the last week of rehearsals before opening night) where they watched the play to get an idea of its natural rhythms and what they would have to do to make the play more efficient for all parties involved. Hebron also explained that as part of making themselves the most efficient in their work schedules, a sense of camaraderie had to be created between the members of the crew.

“As technicians, we make sure we work as a family” Hebron said. “We’re working anywhere between 3 hours a day to 10 hours a day, dealing with actors, directors, and designers, just trying to get whatever their vision is onto the stage. It’s like trial by fire, we have to make sure everything is done right.

Rose Kim, a second-year communications major, will be starring as Marie, the wife of Woyzeck (portrayed by Hein Huynh). McGrath explained his selection process for the actors.

“[Woyzeck] is a very dark play,” McGrath said. “[I was looking for] someone who could handle the text but could also move well and had a certain [charismatic] quality that the play needed, which was edgy.”

After casting, Kim utilized lessons from her classes here at UC Davis to prepare for the role and to become fully immersed within the emotional state of the character.

“[I was] going through the script, looking at every line, and seeing what my character wanted – the playable objective of the role [which I learned in my dramatic arts class],” Kim said. “I had my interpretation of Marie and then as we [went] through the rehearsal process, [my interpretation got] tweaked, melded and molded into also the image of the director.”

Kim was able to find her interpretation for Marie through the aspects of the character that resonated with her the most.

“The first thing that stuck out to me was that she was a survivor. She was born into the butt of society and through her own instincts she found a way to survive,” Kim said. “It’s been a process of realizing that she is still vulnerable. She makes some questionable decisions ­– which just makes her human to me. [Her flaws] really spoke to me, no matter how strong you are, you are still human. You can do bad and good and they both can manifest in different ways.”

In addition to the traits or “playable objectives” of the characters, actors are able to resonate with the themes of their work their character exists. Kim is no different, as she acknowledges that some of the themes explored in Woyzeck, originally written in the early 1800s, are prevalent today.

“There’s some things about being born on the lowest rung [of society] – there’s obstacles that come with it that are so ingrained into society from history that have to be acknowledged [and are so in this play],” Kim said. “[You cannot just] say ‘everyone is equal,’ because [everyone is] still not. [We have] a long way to go.”

Rashad Hurst arts@theaggie.org

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