When most theaters host a premiere, the production has often been worked through relentlessly by multiple groups. But University students were the excited original cast for the world premiere of “Dionysus of the Holocaust” Tuesday night.
Steven Young, director of the production, said the play is distinct because a world premiere does not happen often in the collegiate realm — maybe once every few years or so. However, an open dialogue with the writer, professor Femi Euba, made the preparation for the production somewhat easier, though the actors were constantly challenged and pushed during the process, he said.
The play is set after a meteorite strikes the Earth and destroys almost the entire planet. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, agriculture and fertility of nature, is summoned by the unborn to repopulate the human race on Earth. While the question of human worth is discussed, the play also addresses racial issues. The few remaining survivors are competing to decide which race should rule the world.
The performance will be recorded for archiving purposes so future performers can reference the way the student actors portrayed each character.
Young said the difference in preparing for a world premiere is the fundamental approach to building the characters and the storyline. The writer’s input is essential for the play’s success.
“[The actors] have to be on their toes,” Young said. “Not only are small details constantly in flux but sometimes their characters are as well.”
Young said working with college students had its challenges, though their energy and enthusiasm contributed to the play’s vitality.
Geoffrey Place, mechanical engineering freshman, plays the lead role as Dionysus, and said multiple aspects contributed to his excitement for Tuesday’s premiere.
As a freshman who does not major in theater performance, Place said the opportunity to portray an original character was nerve-racking yet exciting, especially in his first performance with the LSU Theatre Department.
“In any play with a history [like Shakespeare], you usually have something to go off of, but this play is not like that,” Place said.
Though this lack of traditional resources made developing his character difficult, Place said the rare advantage of having the writer present throughout the entire preparation process helped him.
Place said the nature of creating an original production and character was difficult but in some ways simpler because there are constantly discoveries being made by the actors, the director and even the writer.
“I think it’s easier because [the process] is very organic, and you can originate all the characteristics of each character,” Place said.
For theatre performance senior Rachel Paternostro, the experience of a world premiere is familiar.
Paternostro said she has been a part of a world premiere before, but this production is different because of the large cast and the interesting plot of the play. It is always exciting to perform an original work, however, because it is a completely new palate that can be taken in any direction, she said.
“I hope when people come see the show, they’re ready for a good time,” Paternostro said. “And the end has a very good message.”