For most students, September is a time to figure out classes, organize calendars, and set priorities for the semester ahead. While their classmates are busy settling into their routines, however, one group of undergraduates is nearly ready to put on a play, and it has been fast in the making.
“Calamus,” written by junior psychology concentrator Patric Verrone, is a runaway tale that explores love, belonging, and acceptance. Through storytelling and character development, “Calamus” shines a bright light on a variety of themes from queer history and contemporary culture, including experiences of online dating and dressing in drag.
The informal vibe of “Calamus” lets cast members engage deeply with the audience and push the boundaries of conventional repertory theater. Envisioned by Verrone as an “educational tool,” the play seeks to inspire people from within and outside of Harvard’s queer community to reflect on their identity and place in history.
Kyle McFadden ’18, the producer, and his team have had just four weeks to pull it all together. In addition to his full course load, McFadden has been busy coordinating auditions, managing the rehearsal schedule, even fiddling with the lights. For McFadden, producing “Calamus” has been an exercise in discernment.
“Since we are operating on a compressed production schedule, we’ve had to make a number of strategic decisions throughout the month,” he said. “Given the bare-bones aspect of the production, we knew that emotional expression was a priority. We’ve directed considerable energy toward working with the actors to express a depth of feeling that resonates in their voices, not just their movement or costumes.”
Junior English concentrator Nathaniel Brodksy has been in charge of direction. Whereas most directors would be focused on blocking, costumes, and set design at this late point, Brodsky has the unique opportunity to instead focus on subtleties such as body language and tone of voice.
With a premiere scheduled in the Leverett Library Theater on Friday, “Calamus” sets the stage for a busy theater season this fall at Harvard. Instead of having to compete with multiple other premieres, however, “Calamus” stands alone this weekend, hoping for a wider audience. In an environment where students are used to things starting slightly late or “on Harvard time,” “Calamus” shows that being early does, in some cases, have its merits.
The performances will Friday and Saturday (Sept. 30, Oct. 1) at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday (Oct. 2) at 2:30 p.m. at the Leverett Library Theater. Run time is two hours with intermission.