By Emmi Frankum, Staff Writer
“I read it, went to bed thoroughly disturbed, woke up the next morning thoroughly disturbed, and decided it would be a great play for Halloween,” Armstrong senior James Carroll said, when describing his decision to direct the haunting Masquer’s production of “The Pillowman”.
The play, written by Martin McDonagh, invites the audience into an undisclosed totalitarian society in which a notorious writer of stories regarding child murders– Katurian Katurian, portrayed by Walter Pigford—is subjected to violent and ethically questionable police interrogation, regarding the killings of several local children.
Though the script allows for the casting of up to ten actors, Carroll’s production was done with just five. Justine Scrutchins, Harris Cutcher, John Nash, and Megan Dyer performed alongside Pigford in the Jenkins Hall Black Box Theatre during the show’s weeklong run from Oct. 28 to Nov. 2.
“You can only put so many people in the Black Box without it getting too congested,” Carroll said. This meant the actors were responsible for setting the stage between scenes, portraying their primary character, and—for Scrutchins, Cutcher, and Dyer—playing additional roles as well.
Another stylistic choice taken by Carroll, in order to keep the cast to a minimum, was changing the gender of primary character and forceful police interrogator, Ariel— played by Scrutchins. While the addition of another female to the cast allowed Carroll to cast Scrutchins as multiple characters in the show, he also stated, “it adds a very interesting element to [Ariel’s] character and her relationship with Katurian…it was twisted for a male role, but it becomes a different kind of twisted as a female role.” Scrutchins added, “making Ariel a woman makes her choices more impacting.”
“It’s a wild show,” Pigford said.
Carroll acknowledged initially feeling slightly nervous about selecting this show: “The content is so dark, I wasn’t really sure how audiences were going to take it or whether it was going to be palatable or not,” Carroll said. Audience members, on the other hand, seem to have not gotten the memo.
“I think we’ve had some pretty sick audiences,” Carroll said. “There have been a lot of laughs—a lot more than I expected quite honestly.”
In regards to the experience as a whole, Pigford expressed, “it’s been eye opening, [the show] makes you really think about what art is meant for.” For Scrutchins, her involvement in the production required her to “dig into emotions I don’t usually have to” she added. “I think it’s been a really awesome experience and I love it.”
Directing “The Pillowman” has been what Carroll calls “a growing experience.” Carroll claims that gauging the audiences’ reactions, specifically, is how he grows the most, “I like to sit in the audience because part of my duty as an entertainer is to entertain, [and] just because I see something one way doesn’t mean that others will see eye to eye with me.”