TJC Theatre has begun working on the first of its two spring productions: “The Glencairn Seaplays” by Eugene O’Neill, which is a set of three one-act plays “Bound East for Cardiff,” “The Long Voyage Home” and “In the Zone.” Each play has a different director, but the same cast. This comes after a fall semester consisting of Disney’s “Descendants: The Musical” and “Holes.” ” The Glencairn Seaplays” mark a tonal and narrative switch. All three directors gave their vision for the production and their thoughts on the way it compares to the past productions.
Director of “Bound East for Cardiff”
The first of the three one-act plays is being directed by Dr. David Crawford, a TJC theatre professor.
The premise of the play, Crawford said, is one of the sailors has had a horrible experience that leads to him being on his deathbed for a majority of the play. His best friend is forced to come to terms with the fact that his friendship may soon come to an end because he and the rest of the crew can do nothing but watch someone die slowly. Crawford describes it as a play showing the importance of friendship and people.
“O’Neill dispels the thought that, how romantic and neat and wonderful is a sailor’s life, and the idea here is that there is no romance at all, it’s basically routine, boring, awful food, awful placement,” Crawford said.“You go to work, you come off work, you go to bed, you eat somewhere in between and you do this over and over and over and over and over and over and over.”
Crawford also lauds praise for O’Neill, saying it is only natural for TJC Theatre to perform his work, naming him the first great international American playwright for his work with realism in theatre. Crawford compares him to Anton Chekhov and Konstantin Stanislavksi, two other realists considered to be among the greatest playwrights.
“You want access to all forms of theatre, all forms of playwrights, as much as possible. You don’t know if you like it unless you taste it,” Crawford said.
Colleagues from four-year colleges told Crawford the most important trait for a transfer student to have is being well-read in a diverse selection of works, so he applies this to the work TJC Theatre does.
“If you’re always having to be pressured into a theatre schedule that says you have to earn money so you can put plays on, man that affects everything you do, you can’t do anything,” Crawford said.
Director of “The Long Voyage Home”
Jacob Davis, a TJC theatre professor, takes charge of the second play about a wartime ship and its crew carrying a potentially fatal shipment.
“This is an interesting approach because there are three directors, certainly with three different worldviews, and for all of us to come together to kind of create one unified vision for this whole evening of production, it’s been fun more than a challenge,” Davis said.
Davis is hopeful this production will be rewarding for both the directors and the actors due to the uniqueness of it. It is unique in both the creative direction and the general subject matter because it is a “slice of life.”
“It’s real realism. It’s extremely real and so it’s a little bit more in-your-face than the productions we’ve done in the past, which have been more escapism and lightheartedness,” Davis said.
Davis describes the experiences in the play as universal truths all people from all walks of life go through. Davis said it is a harping tale of the human condition. It tells stories of the relationships between friends and the possibility of losing a friend, people taking dreams and aspirations away from you, and the fear of the unknown.
“I think the main message is that you need to guard and fight for what you want because we live in a broken world that at any moment somebody is gonna try and take that away,” Davis said.
The intended effect on the audience is for them to watch the second play and know they have to treasure the dreams they have and not lose the opportunity. They have to hold onto what they want
to have in a fulfilling life and make it hard for someone to take it away.
Director of “In the Zone”
The last play is directed by Ethan Beam, director of Theatre Facilities.
“Being ‘In the Zone’ means to be in the warzone, so it’s about like this ammunition ship that is taking a trip to deliver ammunition during World War I,” Beam said.
Beam said the thematic elements revolve around having a lack of information when faced with the task of making a decision but having to make one anyways and how it can make the results of that decision difficult to manage as they take place.
When a new production starts, Beam has a detailed process that is used as the production goes along. Everything from analyzing the script, casting, property licensing and set design has a plan executed in collaboration with the other professors.
“For me personally, the play is more rooted in kind of a heavier atmosphere, something’s that not so much lighthearted, especially when the subject matter is ‘Well, we could die from like a German U-boat like hitting us with a torpedo,’ so my approach to it is definitely gonna be different,” Beam said.
Grandiose and larger-than-life plays are what Beam enjoys the most, so his strategies for executing the play revolve around storytelling and world building. For a play like “In the Zone,” the setting is the same throughout, dealing with the same characters, and the relationships that influence those characters, so it is less macro and more micro.
“In this situation that we have going on where we’re doing three of the plays, I think that’s really something special and will end up being something special because we get to watch largely the same group of characters go through three different situations,” Beam said.
Beam sees this play as an interesting way to tell a story and to engage the audience because he can combine the different skills he has and incorporate them into learning and creating something new.
“I’m big on learning how to operate in different situations, which I guess is like TJC’s mission statement almost,” Beam said.
The application of new techniques and the research that goes behind putting together a play that feels true to the material is something Beam enjoys, not only because it helps the play, but because it can help Beam in his everyday life by learning new ways to problem solve and to work effectively with others.
“I want them to know one thing: Eat your greens and go to class,” Beam said.
TJC Theatre will show “The Glencairn Seaplays” by Eugene O’Neill between Feb. 22-25 at the Jean Browne Theatre. For more information, visit tjc.edu/theatre.