Theater Preview | 3Ps First Year Show’s twisted material promises laughs
Freshman cast and crew animate ‘Mr. Marmalade’
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 08:11
Much of an average student’s freshman year in college is spent figuring out the ways in which college differs from high school. Fortunately for freshman students interested in theater at Tufts, the student theater umbrella organization Pen, Paint and Pretzels (3Ps) puts on a First Year Show to help them transition to college−level performing. This weekend, the cast and crew — composed entirely of first−year students — will present their hard work by performing Noah Haidle’s black comedy “Mr. Marmalade.”
Director A.J. Knox, a graduate student in the Drama Department, explained that the purpose of the First Year Show is to help create a sense of community among the students, as well as to aid students in learning how theater works at Tufts.
“My whole idea with the show, and the idea behind the first year show in general, is to create an ensemble, create a sense of community,” Knox said. “The first semester of college is hard, and I think this is a great way to get kids involved and meet new people and start to get [acquainted with] the ins and the outs of the Drama Department here at Tufts.”
The all−freshman philosophy on the production extends beyond the 10−person cast to the entire crew, with positions such as stage manager, assistant director and costume and lighting crew all filled by first−year students. One unique aspect of the production is that every crew member has a corresponding upperclassman mentor assigned to them, to help with the transition to theater at Tufts and at a college level in general.
“Mr. Marmalade” centers on Lucy, a four−year−old girl with an imaginary friend named Mr. Marmalade. The only catch is that Mr. Marmalade is unlike most childhood imaginary friends. The titular character has a penchant for drugs, alcohol and pornography, and he often tends to ignore Lucy. Knox described the character as a “strange, bizarre creation of hers.” Throughout the show, Lucy develops a friendship with Larry, a five−year−old boy who proudly holds the honor of New Jersey’s youngest suicide attempt. Despite the bleak subject matter, there are numerous moments of sweetness and intimacy in the play.
According to Knox, the First Year Show does fit in thematically with many of the other productions occurring this semester. He did mention, however, that “Mr. Marmalade” is unique among other productions because its material pushes boundaries and presents different, unconventional perspectives.
“I think the story is new. The characters are different. Rarely do we do shows about children here that are aimed at adults, so I think that’s a nice kind of change and it offers a different sort of theatrical experience,” Knox explained.
Actor Alex Knapp offered praise for the direction that Knox took with the cast.
“I like AJ’s style ... he lets you create your character and build them to what you want them to be, but then he just supplies a bit of a vision and streamlines it so it fits all together,” Knapp said.
When it comes to the cast of “Mr. Marmalade,” acting experience runs the gamut from some who have been acting nearly their whole lives to those who only have a few years of experience. For these new cast members, this college production poses different challenges from their high school acting experiences, as they are now forced to balance coursework with rehearsals, navigate the unfamiliar style of dark comedy and adapt to a more condensed production schedule than those at the high school level.
When audiences come see “Mr. Marmalade” this weekend, Knox said he hoped that they would leave with a reminder of the importance of play and imagination.
“I hope that [viewers] get a sense of how wonderful and important it is to retain a sense of your inner child and the freedom and the fun that comes with playing,” he said. “I mean, that’s what theater is — we’re all playing as actors and directors and anybody who’s working on this show ... we’re imagining the world, creating the world.”
“Mr. Marmalade” is playing in Balch Arena Theatre at the Aidekman Arts Center Nov. 1 and 2 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Balch Arena Box Office or by calling 617−627−3493.