UMass Theater Premieres Refugee in the Curtain Theater
By Mary Margaret Hogan '18 | Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Mary Margaret Hogan '18
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Professor Milan Dragicevich’s original piece Refugee begins its two-week run with its Wednesday night preview performance. Directed by Nikita Milivojević, the show follows the story of three different worlds: a refugee camp amidst World War II, 1990s Serbia, and Kentucky. The play incorporates live vocals and music throughout the show as well as breathtaking scenic design that creates an illusion of “a city of tents.”
Opening with the story of two sisters in the El Shatt refugee camp, the play transforms the Curtain Theater into a barren Egyptian desert while the war wages across Europe. Actresses Lily Filippatos ‘17 and recent UMass Theater graduate Elena Nietupski portray the sisters, Mara and Sava, throughout their years as refugees as they encounter the realities of being displaced from their home in Serbia. The sisters struggle to find normalcy in the desert, as they have left their mother and brother behind in Serbia, but still encounter the trivial childlike moments of playtime and romance.
The plot bounces forward with East Kentucky activist Danica, played by Olivia Holcomb ‘18, asking her neighbor, played by actor Eric Love, to hold on to their property to prevent the industrialized destruction of their 1990s Appalachian community. The pair graces the stage with live, angelic Appalachian vocals and harmonies as their friendship flourishes. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Serbia, actor and professor Glenn Proud’s hustler character tries to convince activist Katarina, played by Alyssa Labrie ‘18, that it is time to leave their homeland in the midst of the Yugoslav War.
In this new work, the actors and production team encounter a unique rehearsal process as the piece is constantly altered and adapted before it can be a considered a final product. With the construction and editing of the piece, actors can be given new material from rehearsal to rehearsal, while technical aspects are frequently altered with the addition or subtraction of new text.
With this being actor Brendan Lynch’s ‘17 second time working on an original piece in the department, he thoroughly enjoys the experience. “I would say the only difficulty in taking on an original role is not really having a reference point--sometimes the blank canvas can be a little intimidating,” he says. “But working in direct collaboration with the playwright to realize their vision for a character is an extremely rewarding process. In my experience, the best part is seeing discoveries the actors are making on stage implemented into the text. In a lot of ways we are developing these roles in tandem with the playwright.”
While Refugee’s three plot lines begin to overlap and interweave, audiences are captivated by the seamless and beautiful transitions filled with the sound of live American and Serbian folk music, created byTim Eriksen. Though it is clear the wardrobe and references of culture are confined and identifiable within each period, the themes of conflicting ideals of nationalism, the role of activism, and familial bonds transcends time and generations. Despite the division of worlds, the actors truly create a cohesive and enlightening ensemble. Refugee continues its run December 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m., December 7-10 at 7:30 p.m. as well as for a matinee on December 10 at 2 p.m.