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School of Theater puts on 19th-century tale "The Idiot"

Though the term “idiot” has been a go-to insult since the playground years, the Ohio University School of Theater’s new production shows how much punch the word can pack.

The School of Theater presents “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, adapted by David Fishelson from February 15 to 18 and 22 to 25.

The show, directed by Jamie Lish, is set in 19th century Russia and centers around a prince named Myshkin, played by Chris Young. Prince Myshkin returns from Switzerland where he is sent to be cured of his “idiocy.” The naïve prince relies fiercely on his blind trust of others to navigate through this corrupt world and a love triangle.

Though the prince must deal with the harsh world of 19th century Russia, Lish said this is what she enjoys most about the prince.

“I was really drawn to the character of the prince and how he never betrays his moral compass, even when he is betrayed by those around him and his body,” Lish said, adding that these very hardships allow many people to draw a parallel between the play’s setting and modern America.

“The world of Dostoevsky’s mid-late 19th century Russia was confusing, chaotic, harrowing — much like present-day America,” she said. “Both cultures express infatuation with materialism, and competing assertions in political, and religious realms.“

Another character in the show that experiences hardships is Nastasya Filippovna, the “anti-heroine.” Filippovna is played by Emily Williams, a senior studying theater.

Filippovna, a daughter of a poor aristocrat and one of the prince’s love interests, is a broken and dark woman, Williams said.

“I had to make sure she was not seen as a bitch,” Williams said. “I had to humanize her.”

This presented a unique challenge for Williams because she didn’t want to base her portrayal of the character on her harsh actions throughout the show.

She was also faced with another challenge — cutting off 13 inches of her hair.

The technical aspects of the show are also a challenge, Lish said. In addition to dramatic lighting, it uses automatic stage transitions, all of which made this one of Lish’s most involved productions.

“This is the biggest show I've directed to date,“ Lish said.  “Not only are there 17 actors, but the technical elements for a main stage production at OU far exceed the elements in a lab show or style or realism project at the School of Theater at OU.”

If You Go:

What: Ohio University School of Theater presents The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When: 8 p.m., Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 22-25

Where: Forum Theater, RTV Building

Admission: Free with OU ID

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