Boxing 2000, an off-off-Broadway play that hasn’t been staged professionally in years, is soon finding its way back to the stage under the command of senior thesis director Jonathan Schwolsky.
The play unfolds around a boxing ring, in which two struggling half-brothers, Jo-Jo and Freddie, grapple with their pasts and futures. “One of the reasons I think boxing is such an interesting sport is simply that it’s one-on-one between two people who are literally trying to connect with one another,” Schwolsky explains.
During Schwolsky’s junior year, his advisor suggested he take a look at the work of Richard Maxwell, Boxing’s playwright and original director.
“I ended up reading fourteen of his plays from 1996-2000, and the last one I read was Boxing 2000,” says Schwolsky. “That one specifically had an impact on me, because I felt I read it the way Maxwell wanted people to see his plays. I filled in the gaps. I made my own directorial choices when I read it over and over. The seemingly mundane tone to his play actually holds a lot of beauty and complexity that you’re only shown through a very specific form of narrative.”
It is this specific, almost avant-garde form of narrative that Schwolsky is attempting to emulate as best as he can. Rather than stage the play on a traditional proscenium stage, the audience will surround the boxing ring, raised five feet off the ground to further simulate an actual boxing match. Also, actors might leave the stage, but they never truly exit like they would in traditional plays; rather, they will linger off to the side, still inside Gannett Theater.
“The entire space in Gannett becomes the stage once you enter,” says Schwolsky. “If you were to attend an amateur boxing match, your view isn’t going to be perfect from every angle. It plays on the idea that in theater, as opposed to film, the audience chooses what they see as opposed to what they are directly shown. It asks more of an audience than to merely be entertained.”
Maxwell’s play wanders away from more traditional forms of theater, choosing instead a very stylized approach to both acting and set design. Minimalism and everyday dialogue are common staples of the play.
Schwolsky elaborated on this, saying, “One of the most difficult things is the actor’s role in going against some of these conventions, where overacting is the enemy.”
“My biggest joy in doing this is… working with a group of people and trying to experiment,” Schwolsky says. “It’s a different type of theater than I’ve seen at Bates so far, one that touches on the avant-garde as well as neutrality, which really asks for active listening.”
When it comes to unraveling Boxing 2000, Schwolsky says it best. “It’s about finding something for yourself. Everyone becomes a bit of an agent in the theater.”
Boxing 2000 opens in Gannet Theater Friday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m.