By: Abigail Nelson, Staff Writer
The American literary classic story “Of Mice and Men” graced the USM Russell Hall stage this weekend. The student lead group Performers at Work (PAW) have been preparing to present this production to the public for several months.
Rehearsals began the second week of the fall semester when a group of students from many different levels of theatrical backgrounds came together to begin working on the production. For some actors, this was their second show. Others have had more experience acting and had been busy working on various productions this past summer.
PAW has put in an extensive amount of time preparing for this production. Blake Wright, who played George, said the process was an “artistic marathon.”
In addition to being full-time students, they have spent several extra hours devoted to rehearsals, memorizing lines, lighting, set design, props and costumes. Many of the students also work jobs outside of school or participate in other artistic works.
“While being a full-time student, with two jobs, preparing for a production can be time consuming,” Mariah Larocque, who played Curley’s Wife, said, “It is crucial that you set aside time for character development, line memorization and your health.”
Cody Curtis, Curly in the production, also attested to mental, physical, and emotional balance that goes into preparing for a production.
Dominic Fazio said this was the first time he worked on a production of this size as a director and that he was daunted by the task.
“You have to hit the ground running,” he said, in reference to the overall process of putting together a production. From finding a good set, lighting, stage, and sound crew to convey his vision to the audience, the journey has been long.
Fazio expressed his gratitude for, and confidence in, his cast and crew. He said they have endured several struggles, like the power outage the day of the tech check, to bring the chaotic yet beautiful story “Of Mice and Men” to the stage.
The week before opening night is nothing short of madness, according to the cast. It consists of longer rehearsals, lighting labs, costume design and all other types of fine-tuning to add little touches to the big moments.
Of Mice and Men was a novel written by John Steinbeck in 1937 which follows the story of the main characters George Milton and Lennie Smalls.
“This seems like a story of two friends whose friendship is tested to the ultimate limits, but I feel it is as simple as seeing people from their perspective and learning to be kind and not judge,” Fazio said.
Fazio said it is an emotional and heartbreaking tale that at its core represents life. Through the unfolding of events and the character attributes, it serves as a picture of friendship and complicated relationships, loss, the oppression of women, domestic abuse, and the lost American dream.
The characters embody real issues and each actor had to work hard to portray these attributes. Curly, for example, is arrogant and renown for being disliked. However, Curtis sought to find the human attributes in this vexing character.
“It makes you more empathetic to what’s going on around you,” he said about preparing for roles that contrast your own character.
Travis Harding said playing Lennie is “an experience in learning how to convey different emotions,” as Lennie’s character can fluctuate in a matter of seconds. Curley’s Wife raises awareness about domestic abuse and is a representation of the life that many women have gone through, said Larocque.
Blake Wright said George Milton is a character he can relate to, “He’s not too big, not too small. Not too smart, but not too dumb either. He’s a staple figure in American literature.”
This is perhaps what makes this particular story so powerful. It’s plot and characters are relatable to the human condition, Curtis said, “There is nothing more beautiful and devastating than the human condition, and it’s our responsibility to be looking out for each other.”
Wright said the story is about “chasing the American dream. You have big dreams you really want to happen but that’s just not life. The only thing you can control is the time you have with your people wherever they are.”