Everyone likes to think that they have a strong moral character. Yes, I realize that is a sweeping generalization; but think about it. People want to say that they would rather stand in front of a bullet than shoot a gun themselves. People like playing the hero. But, as history shows, the faith individuals put in their personal fortitude is easily broken, and most of the time, people will simply follow orders when the time comes. Originally a radio play, “They Fly Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease,” written by Norman Corwin and directed by Bates’ Samuel Wheeler ’17, fleshes out this question of morality for the audience to see.
Since its origins come from a radio play aired in 1939, there are unique factors that the director and cast overcame. Wheeler notes that “[the production] was a challenge because the ensemble and I were taking something entirely auditory and making it visual.” However, this jump across mediums allowed Wheeler to make the stage movements completely his own, since there was no concrete example by which to model. However, the director also notes “the challenge of creating the visual aspect out of virtually nothing was [his] favorite part of the process.” The return on the investment of his work was palpable to see, the end result of a fluently and beautifully staged play.
Theatre is a collaborative art; a good director does not make all his decisions without consulting his cast members. Claire Sullivan ’19 remarks that “[Wheeler] encouraged a very collaborative process, meaning that our input in terms of blocking and character choices were extremely important to him.” This collaborative spirit is evident in the seamless running of the show, and the way characters were able to play off each other.
Without characters there could be no plot, and without plot there would be no play. Here, the cast is made up of only five actors, with each of the actors playing multiple roles. This type of performing is called an ensemble piece, and can be very tricky to do correctly. Nicholas Muccio ’16 explains that “every actor has more than one role, and the separation between these two roles errs on the side of fluid as opposed to static.” In different plays, the audience can be befuddled following characters as they continuously slip into different roles. However, in this production, the characters easily lead the audience through the character switches.
Visually, the show was entertaining and kept the audience on their toes throughout the performance. The intimate setting of the Black Box Theater allows for an up close view of the actors. By sitting directly in front of the actors, the audience was able to fully appreciate the emotional turmoil each character felt. Sometimes in larger venues, audience members can be sitting hundreds of feet away from the stage and the individualized expressed emotions are lost in the distance. While each venue has its own place and time when it is useful, for an emotionally charged production such as this, the Black Box was a good choice.
As all good directors do, Wheeler wants his audience to leave with “something to think about.” The problems the characters face in this production are still relevant today. While the world is now concerned about the threat of terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests rather than bomber airplanes dropping incendiary missiles, the threat still remains. “The acts of war depicted in the show are unfortunately too present in our society and this show hopes to act as a jumping-off point for thought,” Wheeler concludes.