Play explores mind of a murderer

Woyzeck“We’re not trying to justify a murderer but rather to understand him,” Director Alexander Gelman says about the Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance’s upcoming play, “Woyzeck.”

Opening Thursday, Feb. 20, “Woyzeck” tells the story of Franz Woyzeck, a lowly German soldier and wig maker who is slowly driven to insanity and who kills his common-law wife in a fit of jealous rage.

In the world of the play, Woyzeck is considered morally lacking by his superiors because he lives in abject poverty. He is bullied, belittled and taken advantage of by his commanding officers, his cohorts and the people closest to him.

When he must take odd jobs to earn extra money, he is further dehumanized. A doctor pays him to experiment on him and is thrilled when Woyzeck begins to hear voices and exhibit signs of acute paranoia. The doctor does nothing to stop his downward emotional spiral.

Playwright Georg Büchner wrote “Woyzeck” as a seemingly disconnected collection of scenes in 1836, but died before he completed the work. The play has been reworked and adapted by numerous authors since his death, including adaptations for movies in 1979 and 1994.

Alex Gelman
Alex Gelman

This NIU version of the play was adapted by the director. Gelman says his adaptation orders the short scenes as he believes Büchner would have, had he been able to finish the play.

Although the play is visually presented as set in the late 19th century, Gelman says it is really not set in a time period.

“The play is episodic, dreamlike, even nightmarish,” he says. “In the same way we juxtapose things in our dreams, every image has some significant meaning – like I can set someone in a white wig next to someone in a suit of armor and each has a contribution to what is experienced.”

“Woyzeck” runs from Thursday, Feb. 20, through Sunday, Feb. 23, and from Thursday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 1. Performances will take place at Huntley Middle School Auditorium, located at 1515 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb. Performances will start at 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays. Sunday and second-Saturday matinee shows will start at 2 p.m.

Tickets and additional information are available at the NIU School of Theatre and Dance box office at (815) 753-1600. Ticket prices are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.

This production of “Woyzeck” is not affiliated with DeKalb Community Unit School District 428.

For more information, call (815) 753-1600 or email sotdboxoffice@niu.edu.

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