Kit Rees (A17) is one of the leaders of the St. John’s College theater group, the King William Players.
Can you give a quick summary of each of the plays?
We have four this year; it’s a crazy year. The first one is God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. It’s one-act and 100 minutes long, and it’s a four-person cast of two sets of parents whose children get in a fight on a playground. They meet up to try to discuss what went wrong and end up getting in a huge drunken fight. It’s a very wonderful dark comedy. I’m not going to say when or where, but there’s a puke scene; I don’t know how they’re going to stage that. Also in December we’re performing Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, which is our annual experimental theater performance. We have a huge cast of 20 people this year.
Next semester are our full-length productions. The first one is Moliere’s Le Misanthrope. [Editor’s Note: The performance of Le Misanthrope has been cancelled.] It’s about (obviously) a misanthrope who falls in love with a woman and, well, it doesn’t go well for him. We’re performing it after the juniors read it in seminar, so I think it’ll be a cool thing for that class to see. Our other main stage is The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, by Stephen Adly Guirgis. It’s another contemporary show directed by senior Chris Hutter, my co-archon. It’s about a lawyer who dies, and in Hell decides she wants to appeal the case of Judas to the courts. There are an amazing amount of witnesses: we see Judas, we see Jesus, but we also see Mother Theresa (a sassy woman from Atlanta, Georgia), Peter, Pontius Pilate and Mary Magdalen. It’s also an incredibly dark comedy, and it has a really heart wrenching conclusion that forces us to examine the issues we see sophomore year in the Bible in a more contemporary light.
Did you choose the plays with a theme in mind?
We noticed last year that all we really ever did was Shakespeare—very venerable and wonderful shows, but they lacked any sort of contemporary sense or any presence of contemporary theater. So while there wasn’t a cohesive theme, when we voted on the proposed plays last year we leaned in the direction of dark comedy and contemporary comedy. That’s what we’ve been missing for a decade, if not more. So this year, while we do have the Moliere, which is a classic, we’re taking a break from them and looking ahead and at ourselves in a way that we haven’t really done at St. John’s in a while.
How do you think that theater at St. John’s enhances the experience of the Program?
Theater at St. John’s is unique because we are forced to analyze these works constantly, but it’s easy to just look at the works that are written for a stage and say that they are written for a stage. We can analyze Shakespeare all we want, we can read Molière, but when you aren’t seeing it you’re missing out on part of the energy of the piece. What we’re looking for is a way to connect with ourselves as modern people and discuss that within what we have here at St. John’s, with the vocabulary that we use to discuss these classical pieces. A lot of things are still there, and they might present themselves in different ways, but the themes we read about are themes in society throughout all time.
What would you say to a student who is on the fence about attending?
Well, Wesley Sondheim (A17) is in all of them. He’s kind of my hero right now. I love small casted shows like God of Carnage, when you don’t have any fluff on stage, when you have four actors and the dynamics between them and that’s what you’re watching—it’s incredible. This is going to be a refreshing step away from St. John’s in terms of the material and a refreshing step towards St. John’s in the way we discuss it. The shows are free and some of them are in lecture slots, so I really encourage everyone to come see them!
What made you interested in theater?
I was in a production of Stone Soup in kindergarten and I’ve been doing theater ever since. I approached this school having done theater in high school all four years, so I came here and I said to myself, “No Kit, you’re done, this isn’t going to be your life anymore,” and then I saw what we were doing and I realized that I had to be a part of it. I’m not involved as an actor anymore, but as a director and producer. It’s a very different sort of involvement, but it’s an incredible pleasure to see what the people on stage do.
—Sasha Gesmer (A17)