Perfect Arrangement will be performed at Putnam Hall in room 227 Feb. 29 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 28, March 4 and 5 at 8 p.m.
The show explores the experience of being homosexual during the lavender scare in the 1950s, a time when the U.S. government targeted queer people. Although the show covers a very serious subject matter, it is performed like a 1950s comedy.
It is part of the MFA Realism Project for first-year MFA students studying directing. The show consists of a cast of actors ranging in age from 19 to 37 and is directed by first-year MFA student Sarah Yorke.
“It's set in the 1950s and it is revolving around the subject of the McCarthy era when the lavender scare became relevant in history, when the government was rooting out people who were queer, or people who they considered deviant at the time,” Yorke said. “So, it’s really a point in history when people started being openly fired for being gay, or accused of being gay. The show deals with what the picture-perfect life looks like in the 50s and what's that's expected to be, but it unveiled that a lot of people were living with their own personal struggles and their own personal secrets.”
The cast features seven actors, including MFA actors Michael Dias and Philip Matthews, with the rest of the cast featuring undergraduate students.
“It's nice, because it's a small cast, it's a small rehearsal space, and it's a small performance space, so it's very intimate,” Yorke said.
The set was made with the knowledge of the show being in rep with the other MFA-directed show “Effective Magic.” For a show to be “in rep” means it is a form of repertory theatre when multiple shows use the same space in the same period of time.
“This is very much like a nuts-and-bolts learning to direct on a budget and learning to direct with very little support because we don't always have the most financial support and things like that,” Yorke said. “So, what's really interesting about this is we have designers. We have a scenic designer, costume designer, lights, sound, everything, but…both (the director of “Effective Magic”) and my set are pulled from stock, (which is) anything that really is available for the school of theater.”
For Yorke, a highlight of the experience has been how well her cast worked together.
“Across the board, their experience level is pretty seasoned, but they all bring a different experience and a different level of experience to the table,” Yorke said. “Immediately, they clicked as an ensemble…there was never any moment where something didn't feel like it was jelling.”
The show’s youngest actor, Daniel Cagle, will be playing the show’s oldest character, a high-up government worker.
“It's been a really nice challenge for him. It's his first production here, and he's grown into something where he's playing older, something really challenging and something very, very different,” Yorke said.
Many students are interested in seeing the performance, for both its social value and its entertainment value.
“I think it'd be interesting to see and maybe open people's eyes,” Dava Clark, a senior studying exercise physiology, said.
Jackie Marquart, a junior majoring in biology, said that she thought the show would be interesting and that she has previously enjoyed 1950s sitcoms.
A challenge Yorke faced in directing the show was capturing the full scope and properly honoring queer people who faced persecution in the 1950s, as well as honoring those who deal with similar problems today.
“I think just telling queer stories in 2020 and keeping a scope on things that even in the 1950s were a problem that are still reflected today,” Yorke said. “How would you comment on that without beating our audiences over the head with it? How do you deal with delicate subject matter like that, but still share the story and honor the story?”