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Slapstick comedy, sex and granny panties

The first play in the 2010-11 Concordia theater season, “What the Butler Saw,” is a farce written by English playwright Joe Orton. The play begins with a mistake, said director David Wintersteen, and the plot takes off from there.

“The consequences snowball,” he said, “and characters make choices they think will solve the problem, but in fact make the snowball bigger.”

Kate Stevenson, a senior who plays the role of Mrs. Prentice, completed an independent study credit this summer by studying the farce genre. Her studies included a joint effort with Wintersteen to produce the director’s note featured in the show program, she said.

While a farce is similar to a comedy, Stevenson said, it is a different genre of play. It is highly exaggerated comedy, she said.

“Basically, you just throw all social conventions out the window,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson’s portrayal of Mrs. Prentice is her senior thesis in theater. She chose her role because it would be a challenge, she said.

“I never get cast as the sexy role,” Stevenson said, “or the comedic role. I really wanted to show my versatility as an actor. [Mrs. Prentice] is a very snarky character.”

Stevenson said she usually acts in dramas, so the switch to exaggerated comedy adds to the challenge.

“Besides that,” Stevenson said, “it’s just fun. I feel like my senior thesis is like eating candy.”

The play references sexual themes beyond what many consider normal, Wintersteen said, by showing neutrality towards homosexuality and dealing with incest and rape.

Characters in the play range from bitter, middle-aged spouses to horny young men, Wintersteen said. The play does not judge or condemn these characters, he said.

Certain audiences will be turned off by the play’s topics, Wintersteen said.
“It’s like how some people have food allergies,” he said. “Some people have sex allergies.”

The play diffuses sexual issues through laughter, Wintersteen said. This is a healthy way to begin a conversation about these types of themes, at least in accepting them as part of humanity, he said.

Matt Cerar, a senior, plays Dr. Prentice, the lead role. The comedic way the issues are handled in the play, he said, helps the viewer excuse them.

“In a way, it makes [them] appropriate,” Cerar said.

Cerar said he would like the audience to walk away from the play smiling and having been entertained.

Wintersteen said the theater is trying to do plays the students will enjoy. Students and faculty will like the comedy, he said, while some administrators may be concerned by the topics.

That is why, Wintersteen said, he emphasized the PG-13 rating in the play’s advertisements. He said it is appropriate for a college setting where young adults are working towards an education.

“It wouldn’t hurt this campus to be a little more open about sex,” Wintersteen said.
Maria Omdahl, a freshman, plays the secretary who is having an affair with the married psychiatrist Dr. Prentice. Omdahl will spend most of the play in underwear, or as she described them, granny panties.

“I wear a dress for all of five minutes,” she said.

All of her scenes are done in good taste, she said, which makes her perpetual panty wearing less risqué.

Omdahl’s role also requires a dramatic hair cut, which happened a week before the play’s premiere. The short hair is more of an issue for her family and friends than her scanty wardrobe, she said, because her hair will take time to grow back.
“After the play, I can just put the clothes back on,” she said.

The comedic style of the play has a slapstick nature, Omdahl said, and actors had to perfect their timing amidst running around the stage. Barring those five minutes she is in a dress, Omdahl will run in those granny panties. She will not, however, be the only actor on stage in underwear during the play.

“Some of the men run around in their underwear, too,” Wintersteen said. “It’s an equal opportunity show in that kind of way.”

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