Until last night I'd never been to a play at Willamette University. After seeing "Aquitania," I'm pretty sure I'll be returning to the university's terrific remodeled theatre.
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I've bemoaned the lack of support for the arts here in sleepy Salem, Oregon, but I guess I need to do more moaning at the guy I look at in the mirror every day, since my wife and I haven't been taking much advantage of Willamette U's cultural opportunities.
For a long time we had season tickets to Pentacle Theatre. Then we gave those up and started going to Salem Repertory Theatre productions, which were more modern, edgier, and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, we discovered SRT shortly before it shut down for lack of support.
That won't happen to the Willamette University Theatre Department, I assume, which is good news.
Because the production of "Aquitania" was highly enjoyable: great acting, singing, set design, and costuming. Best of all, while driving home I said to my wife, "I liked the play a lot, but I didn't really understand what was going on."
Which was the point of the play, so I guess in a way I did get it.
"Aquitania" messes with your mind, being set in a mythical (yet also real) place, where the characters deal with magic (and also reality), drifting back and forth through time (unless the whole play is the dream of the young girl playing a board game, who also is the heroine who learns from the girl what she once knew but has to remember again).
I recycled my program in a box in the theatre lobby, so I'm unable to praise certain actors by name. I'll simply give special kudos to the three beautiful singers and whoever played Gano, the bad guy. All captured my attention whenever they walked on stage, for excellent high-talent reasons.
Curious about the origins of "Aquitania," and why a Google search didn't turn up much info about the play, I learned that it is the creation of Stephen Legawiec, who founded the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble to "explore the relevance of myth and ritual to a contemporary audience."
Legawiec is the author of -- wow -- 26 plays. Judging from "Aquitania," which is both intellectually challenging and artistically pleasing, he's a deeply creative guy. Hopefully Legawiec is still creating (the last production of Ziggurat was in 2007).