Talkin’ ’bout my generation – gap

Daughters of WaterlooFor 200 years, popular culture has used the phrase “met one’s Waterloo” to describe someone who has suffered an utter defeat or an insurmountable confrontation.

The phrase was born when the armies of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington met on the battlefield near Waterloo, Belgium, in 1815, resulting in Napoleon’s defeat.

NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance will premiere a new play by faculty member R. W. Schneider that spins this historical event into a generation-gap comedy-drama about every parent’s occasional feeling that their children are their Waterloo.

Directed by Stanton Davis, “Daughters of Waterloo” opens Thursday, April 21, as the final Studio Series production of the school’s 2015-2016 season.

According to Davis, the fictional account of the events leading up to the famous battle is about family relationships. “The play is really about two fathers dealing with their wild children and estranged wife,” he says.

Davis describes “Daughters of Waterloo” as an allegory for the eternal struggle for love and a balance of power between children and parents. “There is always this generational conflict in a family. It’s a contradiction for one generation to expect another to act like someone from their era.”

Schneider notes in the play’s synopsis that sooner or later, every parent discovers their children live in a world of their own. He writes, “Parents of young adults still feel – at least occasionally – that their progeny live in a separate century.”

Davis says Schneider emphasized the generation gap by grounding the characters in different eras. The Duke of Wellington and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte each have a very modern daughter. Both girls’ mother is the same women, Edith Wharton, famous writer and socialite from the early 20th century.

waterloo-2“With Napoleon in 1815, the mother (Wharton) in 1905, and the girls in present day,” he says, “they really are all from different centuries.”

The eras they represent cause constant conversational confusion. While the military and political rivals are out to conquer a continent, Davis says, “the daughters have the typical concerns of teenagers: boyfriends, things going on at school, what colleges they are going to attend.”

In one scene, he says, “one of the generals is handed his daughter’s cell phone and he screams into it, because he doesn’t know how it works.” Other examples include one of the daughters arrives by train, and her father doesn’t know what a train is; her sister wants to attend Brown University, and her father is surprised to learn that universities are now “color-coded.”

The play also features real-life sisters Emma and Leah Harvey in the roles of the daughters, Charlotte (Napoleon) and Haley (Wellington). Davis thinks it a very interesting aspect of the production that the lives of characters and the actors are so parallel, replete with sibling rivalry, conflict and friendship.

Daughters of Waterloo runs Thursday, April 21, through Sunday, April 24, and will be performed in the Diversions Lounge Theatre at the Holmes Student Center on the DeKalb campus. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

All non-package general admission tickets are $7. For more information, contact the NIU School of Theatre and Dance box office at (815) 753-1600 or sotdboxoffice@niu.edu.

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