‘Sylvia’ promises humor, discussion of social change

Maryville College senior Leslie Owle’s thesis is no mere paper, it is an all out production. For her thesis, Owle chose to direct A.R. Gurney’s play, “Sylvia,” with a cast and crew consisting exclusively of MC students. Directing a show is no small undertaking, but Owle said that she has enjoyed every minute of it.

“I wanted to do something for my thesis that connected all of my interests: theater, psychology and dogs,” Owle said, laughing. “I wanted to direct a show that had to do with how adults deal with social change, and ‘Sylvia’ does that.” Owle described the process of directing her own production as “stressful and different,” although she loved it at the same time.

“I have to deal with all the technology, the actors, the Clayton Center staff to make sure we have the space. It’s a lot more communication than I’ve done before,” Owle said. “I’m still working through MC, but I’m on my own, I’m the communicator, it’s all based on me. It’s very stressful and different, but fun. I’m enjoying it, I’ve got a great cast, with a lot of enthusiasm and dedication for the show. We laugh a lot.”

Sarah Bond, a sophomore theater major, will play the role of “Sylvia.” Bond said that the play follows Sylvia, a dog, and that she is excited to be the human playing the canine in this relationship story. “Sylvia causes issues between the guy that finds her, Greg, and his wife,” Bond said. “He’s drawn into Sylvia’s world, and has conversations with her.To Greg, Sylvia is more than just a dog, although she appears to be a dog to the other cast members. He becomes obsessed with her. She is a controlling, manipulative character. Sylvia is the other woman, emotionally.”

Bond was quick to point out that “Sylvia” not a family-friendly show. “[Viewers] should expect some vulgarity, some off color things, but it’s very real,” Bond said. “It’s funny, but it’s also very poignant and sad. In the end, it’s about marriage dissolving, Greg’s wife Kate feeling that Sylvia is ruining her life and Sylvia just wanting a home, a place to live and be safe and happy. You have to pay close attention to get some of the humor, but there’s also some in your face, slapstick. It’s got everything, really.” Bond and Owle agreed that the rehearsal schedule for “Sylvia” has been hectic.

“We’ve been rehearsing about six times a week for two to three hours at a time.” Owle said. Bond said that she feels as though her time spent in the theater working on “Sylvia” has been time well spent. “Next week will be rough, but it’s supposed to be,” Bond said. “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it, but if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it. We’ve been rehearsing every day for weeks, and now we only have three days to show for it.” Owle described this time for her as bittersweet. She is finishing up her final semester as a college student, and she said that “Sylvia” is her final “hurrah of college.”

“I’m really excited for the final come together. This is the first time I’ll be able to see a show I’ve been worked from the audience perspective, instead of from the tech booth,” Owle said. “I’ve learned a lot of things to and not to do. I’m really grateful to my cast for their effort, especially during this time of the year. They’ve managed to stay focused on school and my show. I’m so thankful for their dedication.”

Owle and Bond encourage students to come see “Sylvia” not only because it is free for MC students, but also because it is funny and the play carries a message an audience could take something away from. Performances of “Sylvia” are scheduled for Dec. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m., and Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Haslam Family Flex Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors, MC Theatre alumni and area students. Admission is free for MC students, faculty and staff, although a printed ticket is required for admission.

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