November 21, 2007

Kleinau Theater to host double bill Nov. 29-Dec. 1

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Kleinau Theatre at Southern Illinois University Carbondale welcomes a double bill of thought-provoking performances Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. General admission is $7, with student admission at $5. Tickets are on sale at the Kleinau Theatre Box Office, on the second floor of the Communications Building, one hour before show time. To reserve tickets, call 618/453-5618.

First up on the double bill is "Drowning a Diary: Revisioning Virginia Woolf," an original work created by graduate student Alison Aurelia Fisher and co-directed by Elyse Lamm Pineau, an associate professor of speech communication, specializing in performance.

Fisher wove her script from threads of Woolf's fiction, diary and published letters, sticking closely to the text for the most part but adding dialogue here and there to make the cast performance a contemporary work. The end result, she said, is a performance she hopes will be accessible even to those not familiar with Woolf.

Woolf (1882-1941) is perhaps most famous for her book-length essay, "A Room of One's Own," generally considered a feminist classic. She was also an important part of the modernist movement in literature, a movement that includes T. S. Eliot and James Joyce. Her life itself attracts attention, partly because her diary and letters deal with such subjects as madness and homosexuality. Woolf committed suicide by drowning, documenting her feelings in a poignant letter to her husband.

Fisher said that "Drowning a Diary" is her own personal reading of Woolf's work and her own interpretation of Woolf's life.

"I'm trying to put myself into the reading," she said. "I think a lot of people think of Virginia Woolf as just a crazy woman who put rocks in her pockets and walked out into a lake. With this performance, I've really tried to say, 'This is how I see it.' I try to empathize with her rather than criticize her. Sometimes we are so critical – I want to remind people that she was a human being. We have to find that her humanity does mean something."

The second performance on the double bill is "Ana and Mia: A (Dis)ordered Life," by speech communication senior student Andrea Wallace. This is Wallace's debut as a writer of a full-cast performance. Aubrey Huber, a graduate student and teaching assistant, co-directs.

Wallace said her main goal is to present a window into the world of eating disorders, in the process challenging some of the commonly held perceptions about people with eating disorders and demonstrating that eating disorders are far more prevalent than is generally presumed.

Wallace said the media tends to focus on extreme examples of anorexia and bulimia, and to assign simplistic causes for their onset. Part of the disservice such an approach creates, she said, is that people don't realize how their own eating and dieting patterns and their own attitudes toward food can cross the line into disordered behavior – such as following a string of fad diets. One needn't be on the verge of hospitalization to have an eating disorder, she said. Similarly, she said, the suggestion that all eating disorders center on an idealized body image is erroneous. Her presentation exposes the less publicized sides of eating disorders, including behavior and thought patterns that might not seem so strange to the audience.

Wallace's research includes interviews with people who have had or still have eating disorders. There is one male character, modeled after a wrestler Wallace interviewed, in her cast. Wallace also drew on her own experience with an eating disorder.

"This is the first time I've allowed myself to dip into those feelings," she said. "I'm comfortable talking about it, but the last part of the performance is emotional, a very vulnerable place for me."

Both performances run each evening. There is no seating once a performance begins.