Today: Jul 14, 2024

Pulitzer prize winning play touches down at Lyman

Sean Meenaghan — Photo Editor
Students from SCSU take part in the melodrama.

OLIVIA RICHMAN — General Assignment Reporter

Twenty-six actors. Two acts. One set. This is the formula to put together “Street Scene,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Elmer Rice that was recently produced and executed by Southern Connecticut State University’s Crescent Players.

“It’s a melodrama,” said Stephen Blake, a theater major at SCSU, “about a day in the lives of people in an apartment in 1920s New York City.”

In fact, the whole play takes place in and around the apartment, thus the play had only one set. “Street Scene,” having taken place in 1929 in NYC, followed the lives of different families and individuals who lived and worked in the apartment building, according to Steven Taliaferro, a communications major and theater minor.

“The world is changing during this time,” he said. “Women are beginning to wear short skirts. The flapper is becoming big. The world is changing. A lot of the characters from the play are from other countries. There’s Russian Jews, communists.”

The set, made to look the exterior of an apartment building, took over a month to build, according to Blake.

The set, built by Steven Michaelieck, was made of wood, but made to look like dirty bricks. It had “grimy” windows, said Taliaferro, a member of the Crescent Players.

It was an apartment in the slums – surrounded by lamp posts, trash cans and other things one would find outside of an apartment building.

“We get a bunch of compliments on the set,” said Blake. “My friend was amazed.”

Sean Meenaghan — Photo Editor
“Street Scene” takes place in the 1920’s.

There were 26 actors and actresses that took part in the play. Some individuals, like Taliaferro, took on double roles.

The characters ranged from gossip-hungry Mrs. Jones, who “gossiped about you as soon as you left,” said Blake, her alcoholic husband and Mr. Kaplan, an outspoken Jewish man who was always put down by the anti-Semites in the apartment building and many others, including Taliaferro’s two very opposite roles of Officer Harry Murphy and Mr. Jones.

“In most of the first act, I’m Mr. Jones, the building’s tenant,” he said. “He’s always sad. He’s a pathetic, sad alcoholic. He tries to make light of every conversation, even if it’s inappropriate to do so. He has a wife named Emma and a daughter and son. He’s a loser, but he’s seemingly happy and doesn’t want to change his situation.

“Officer Harry Murphy is the opposite: he’s on top of his job. He takes people’s safety very seriously. But he’s not above making jokes and flirting with women. In fact, there’s one scene where a few nurses go by and he begins to call out to them. I had a lot of fun with his Irish accent. He was a fun character.”

Blake also enjoyed his character.

“I was the janitor, Mr. Olben. He doesn’t speak much. He’s been there for so long,” he said, “and he’ll be there when these people leave. He sees everything, but doesn’t say much. He’s a good person.”

As part of the Crescent Players, Taliaferro said there are four different productions, with “Street Scene” being the drama, or straight speaking play without dancing and singing.

According to Taliaferro, there’s also a musical and two student directed one-act plays taking place in the fall.

“I would like to join the Crescent Players,” said Blake. “I love theater, the acting of course, and the technical part. I think the Crescent Players show people that acting is a good thing to do, a way to get out your emotions.”

Taliaferro said he loved acting as well because not only is it fun, but he gets to meet new friends as well through each play.

Taliaferro said even preparing for a play is fun, even though sometimes it’s quite stressful.

“Rehearsing is sort of like the gears of a stick shift car,” he said. “First gear is learning the lines and getting to know the play and the character. Second gear is blocking, which is positioning the actors on the stage. Third gear is off-book, fourth gear is when you start rehearsing the entire play and fifth gear is rehearsing the entire play with costumes and special effects, like makeup and lighting.”

Blake said he’s never done preparing his character.

“Even during showtime I’m fine-tuning everything,” he said. “I start off with a lot of character research though. I looked up videos and articles on people in the late 1920s and such.”

Both actors believed that the show was a success, even though it wasn’t packed.

Even with the small audience, Taliaferro said there were rave reviews regarding the show and the actors.

He said the show was a very big hit, as did Blake, who said he judges the show’s successfulness by the audience’s reaction.

During the play, according to Blake, the audience members cried when things were upsetting and laughed at the jokes.

“My favorite part of the play is opening night,” said Taliaferro. “There’s magic in the air. Rehearsals can be stressful but on opening night it all comes together. The audience is ready for a show and there’s a feeling of accomplishment because you’ve made lives better. You’ve entertained people who expected to be entertained. We’ve made them laugh and cry. It’s a good feeling.”


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