The Wilson Hall Studio Theatre was transformed last weekend into a dismal scene.
Black walls covered in multi-colored graffiti depicted harsh language and drawings. A haze of soft blue and purple lighting set the tone for the play. A twisted version of the “Peanuts” theme song played in the background, a few keys off.
There was no stage, only a section of the room that wasn’t covered in chairs for seating. The audience in that room was not watching a play – it was in it.
The theater department performed “Dog Sees God,” a play depicting the “Peanuts” characters in an older, adolescent setting.
Megan Gallagher, sophomore from Benton, Ky., went to see the play because some of the cast members were her friends.
“I lost who they (the actors) were as my friends,” Gallagher said. “They became the characters themselves. It was so easy to get lost in the story.”
The play dealt with a variety of issues such as sexual orientation, body image, religion, suicide, depression and death. The content of the play was emotionally heavy for both actors and audience.
“My emotions went up and down throughout the show,” Gallagher said. “By the end of opening night, the entire audience left the theater hugging each other, hugging the cast, crying and laughing. One girl even made the comment, ‘We are just a room full of emotionally exhausted individuals.’ Even after I went home, I couldn’t sleep because I was still trying to relax after the emotional rollercoaster I had just been on.”
Daryl Phillipy, assistant professor of College of Humanities and Fine Arts and director of the play, said that he was pleased with the way the actors performed and handled the intense content.
“All of the characters had emotional preparation they had to go through,” Phillipy said. “It was difficult for them sometimes because they had to get to that emotional dark place before each show. I was pleased with their commitment to the process; it paid off for them in a great way.”
Despite all of the deep emotional content, the play ended with a message of hope. At the end of the play, the main character receives a letter from his long-silent pen pal. The letter tells him to never stop asking questions and to always immerse himself in life, not in death.
“The best part was that, even through all the sadness and the intense moments, there was a positive message: to focus on life more than we focus on death,” Gallagher said.
After seeing this performance, Gallagher said she would be returning to see more plays from the theater department.
Phillipy said he hoped the audience walked away with a new understanding of the fact that everyone has problems and that you never know what someone else might be dealing with. He hoped that the messages of kindness and being true to yourself resonated within each member of the audience.
After the performance, the actors invited the audience to come join them and dance together. The dancing lifted the mood, reminding everyone of that ray of hope.
“We loved the curtain call,” Phillipy said. “At the end of the day, that’s one of the main messages of the play – to love each other.”
Story by Kaylan Proctor, Contributing writer