Jeremy Vreeken-Staff Writer
This fall, Dordt’s production, The School for Scandal, brings the audience on stage and sets them right next to the action. The set features 16 chairs for audience members split between the left and right sides of the stage. The placement of these chairs was both a directorial and a design choice.
“One of my goals was to help the audience get a feel for what theatre was like in the period of the play,” said Teresa Ter Haar, the director of the production.
The School for Scandal is set in 1777, a time when theatre was often done right in the homes of the wealthy. The desire to channel the feeling of 18th century theatre worked its way into all aspects of the production, including design.
“In that time, theatre was about seeing and being seen. You went to see the other people in attendance, not always the show itself,” said Laura Berkompas, the lead scenic designer on the production.
This idea became the overall theme of the production and is portrayed through the use of see-through furniture, and eye and face motifs throughout the set.
This theme is also portrayed through the role of the audience.
“The relationship between actor and audience was very different back then,” said Ter Haar. “The audience was expected to react to and talk back to the actors, even calling them by their real names.”
Dordt’s production seeks to imitate this feeling through the addition of a ‘claque’, which is a group of audience members, each one loyal to a specific character. They call out during the show, cheering for their favorite characters and booing others.
“The claque helps to blur the line between audience and performer,” said Ter Haar. The claque is there to aid in the creation of a certain feeling, not to actually tear down any of the actors.
“Honestly, the whole idea of a claque was an experiment for us, something fun to try. Maybe it will open the door for even more interesting ideas in the future.” said Ter Haar. Ter Haar encourages everyone to come out, see the play, sit on stage and really get into the action of the play.
The School for Scandal is an outrageous comedy that follows the exploits of a group of aristocratic gossipers. They seek to destroy or tarnish the reputations of everyone around, including each other’s. Each character learns a valuable lesson in humility and the fragility of reputations. The play runs roughly three hours and is a must see for anyone with an appetite for scandal.