Class warfare, a child custody battle and personal courage are just a few of the themes presented in the next staged production of the School of Theatre and Dance at Northern Illinois University.
“The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” written by Bertolt Brecht in 1944, is the sixth Mainstage Series production of the school’s 2012-2013 season.
The show is guest directed by Michael Goldberg, artistic associate at First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook. Last February, he directed “The Ascent of F6” for SoTD’s 2011-2012 production season.
“The Caucasian Chalk Circle” is a play based on the Bible story of King Solomon and the baby. The story is set in 1980s Yugoslavia, when the country was in the midst of political and social turmoil.
Amidst the chaos, a young peasant girl named Grusha Vachnadze rescues a baby without knowing the child’s true parents. Tressa Greschak, sophomore acting major, plays Grusha.
“I’m excited because my previous role was so light … Grusha is grounded and, honestly, a little more rough,” Greschak said.
Grusha raises the baby as her own only later comes face to face with the baby’s birth mother, Natella, the wife of the governor. A fight for custody before a judge ensues, and it is decided there is only one way to determine who the true mother is: the test of the chalk circle.
“Hopefully people will see it in a different context – maybe will apply it to today’s life and see how silly those differences in classes are from what we really are as people,” Goldberg said.
The upper and lower class structure theme is also evident in the type of music played during the play. The actors perform gypsy music with a folkloric tone, which is contrasted with the percussive pre-recorded music that makes up the rest of the show’s soundtrack.
Goldberg considers “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” an historical piece that shows a very specific part of history that he hopes will bridge the gap between a period drama and the modern lives of audience members.
Goldberg said he also appreciates how the School of Theatre and Dance students came together in an effort to make the production the best it can possibly be.
“We’re all creating it together, which is something unique and something you see in the non-university world. But when it happens at this level, it’s really something special,” Goldberg said.
“The Caucasian Chalk Circle” will run from Thursday, April 4, through Sunday, April 7, and from Wednesday, April 10, through Sunday, April 14, in the Stevens Building Players Theatre. Show times are 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.