The absurdity and calamity of our modern times has proven itself to be rather unbelievable, unparalleled and, perhaps, cyclical. Living in a day and age where a new calamity surfaces virtually every other week has left many of us seeking means of comfort and escape in other, dependable facets. Theatre, for example, provides an enjoyable experience for its audience members — but that’s not to say it cannot represent and provide commentaries on the nature of our world, either.
Little Theatre’s latest production, Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth,” possesses eerily relevant undertones of the seemingly eternal cycle of destruction and rebuilding — despite first premiering in 1942. Directed by Eileen Dugan, the play follows the Antrobus family and their turning of the nuclear family structure on its head, the family’s mischievous and tantalizing maid, a dinosaur and her wooly mammoth counterpart, and many more exciting characters.
“The plot depicts the journey of The Antrobus Family projected onto the struggles of the human race,” said junior Mary Banks, the show’s stage manager and one of Little Theatre’s counselors-at-large. “I think it’s a statement on the big picture — how we cycle through things and overcome them through the inevitable cycle that is life.”
Banks knew the show had symbolic potential from the first moment she read it, and feels that the challenges faced in bringing it to life only contributed to its relevance to our modern world.
“When we read it for the first time and were considering it, that was what really drew me to it,” said Banks. “I was like, ‘Wow, this really is relevant because it mirrors almost exactly what we’re going through right now.’ Life is always one thing after the other, and I think this is the thing right now.”
Of course, performing a show in the middle of a pandemic entails various restrictions and protocols that took some getting used to.
“Having been there for the process where we plan for all of this, it’s almost weird to think back to a time when the regulations didn’t exist,” explained Banks. “I was a little nervous going into it because you never want to take away from what the show can do for its audience and its actors. I definitely had full faith that we’d be more than fine but I didn’t want to do injustice for the actors. The cast is so good at acting and you don’t want to have to take away from that. Even now when we wear masks and whatnot, and even though you miss being able to see the expressions on people’s faces as they act, we know it’s what we have to do. I think everybody does a really great job anyways — there’s still a lot of emotions onstage all the time. It’s fantastic! I’m totally confident in saying that this has been my favorite cast so far.”
“The Skin of Our Teeth” features a variety of Little Theatre members, newbies and veterans alike. With an array of colorful and idiosyncratic characters to portray, the cast was able to precautionarily rehearse and simultaneously bond.
“I think this cast is really great,” said senior and cast member Kaitleigh Longoria. “We have a lot of new people, both freshmen and new upperclassmen, which is awesome. Just a lot of fresh faces that are keeping Little Theatre alive! I’m very excited for the future of L.T. because, after I move on, I obviously want it to keep going as long as possible. It’s the oldest standing club on Canisius’ campus, after all.”
Having been a part of Little Theatre all four years of her college career, Longoria has witnessed the multitude of changes and decisions made that contributed to the club’s environment, but perhaps nothing will match the bizarreness and meticulousness of performing during a pandemic. Nevertheless, Longoria feels that the club has truly embraced the responsibilities of ensuring their latest production was as safe as it was enjoyable.
“I think there was a brief learning curve, but honestly there wasn’t that much to deal with,” admitted Longoria. “We knew what we were going into and what we’d have to do to run our shows and have the club this year, so that’s what we did.”
Needless to say, creating the show was a unique experience for the returning members of Little Theatre, but it also allowed for new members to navigate the inner-workings of performing within the present climate.
“The Skin of Our Teeth’s” frontman, George Antrobus, will be portrayed by junior Will Vega, a fresh face to the Marie Maday Theatre. Each of the show’s characters play a significant role in the idea of reconstructing society after its destruction, but Vega’s character is particularly impassioned for rekindling the spirit of humanity time and time again.
“It’s the kind of play that’s very topical; like, there are three concurrent ends of the world right now — this week, I should say,” said Vega. “It’s about how structures like the family unit take part in those events. George is the patriarchal archetype; he’s the frontman of civilization and he represents the ambition of humanity and the arrogance of humanity. And he’s certainly very proud.”
The show will be the first theatre production Vega has been a part of, and he reflected on whether or not the rather enticing tangibilities he had anticipated truly came into fruition.
“There was a moment — after everybody’s got their lines down, and we’re getting our costumes together, we’re getting props onstage, and there’s a set starting to form — where everything clicks and I could feel the magic of the stage hit, the one that people talk about. That was my favorite moment, where the scenes started to really take hold of me as an actor.”
The cast and crew have worked exceptionally hard to ensure they can present a performance that’s entertaining, relevant, and safe, and greatly look forward to being able to perform for an audience — even if it’s not in the traditional sense.
“The Skin of Our Teeth” will be livestreamed from the Canisius College Little Theatre Facebook Page Friday, Oct. 16 and Saturday, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. A filmed version will be available on their Facebook Page from Saturday, Oct. 24 to Sunday, Oct. 25.