NIU’s production of The Good Person of Szechwan provides a glimpse into a world where the structure of society has fallen and everyone is doing what they can to survive in the slums. Director Kendra Holton sets the scene in “stylized China, but really anywhere. All places where man is exploited by man. Maybe here. Maybe soon.”
The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht, was written in 1942. Brecht had recently become a refugee in the U.S. during WWII when the Nazi regime rose to power. He wanted to show his resistance from Germany by creating a series of five plays to show how corrupt this world could become. The Good Person of Szechwan was the last of those five plays.
When the main character, Shen Te, played by first-year M.F.A. in acting candidate Emily Vitrano, receives money from a good deed, she opens a tobacco shop and very quickly takes on an unexpected role. She is soon expected to help everyone in need. When things become difficult, Shen Te “creates this alternate persona that comes in and does all the dirty work,” says Vitrano.
Director Kendra Holton states, “this play is a parable about maintaining morality while impoverished, and the complexities of human duality and liminality in response to societal collapse.”
When asked what type of message she wants to send home to the audience, Holton responded: “What is goodness? How much of it is required to change the fate of our world? How much strain can we take? How are we responsible? Who will be held accountable? What are we to do?”
Justin Cahill who plays Sun, the love interest of Shen Te, says, “This is going to be so fun, even for how serious the topics may be.”
Performances are held at NIU’s Holmes Student Center, in the Diversions Lounge, April 20-23. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $7. Ticket reservations and all additional information are available by contacting the NIU School of Theatre and Dance Box Office at 815-753-1600, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or online at the School of Theatre and Dance website.