Theatre students bring creativity, imagination to ‘The Internationalist’

March 29, 2017 | Arts, Events, UToday
By Angela Riddel

The UT Department of Theatre and Film will present “The Internationalist” by playwright Anne Washburn, Friday through Sunday, March 31-April 2 and April 7-9, at the Center for Performing Arts Center Theatre.

Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Lowell (Carter Makiewicz) flirts with Sara (Victoria Zajac) during this rehearsal scene from the UT production of “The Internationalist.”

Lowell, an American on a business trip, is met at the airport by a beautiful colleague. They spend the night together, and he thinks he’s in one of those great American movies where you go to a foreign land and there’s romance and adventure and the experience changes you. The next day at the office, he discovers he’s not in one of those movies; he’s in one of those foreign films where nothing is as it seems, where there is no moral to the story, and, most importantly, no subtitles.

Washburn places Lowell — jet-lagged and unable to speak the local language — in the middle of a fictitious country on a business trip to a company with dubious interests. Caitlyn Tella, the director of the UT production, said the fictitious country and language provide student actors with the opportunity to use their imagination to create their own meaning in these interactions.

“Even though there are parts of the play that are spoken in a foreign language, the audience will follow what is happening along the lines of their own imaginative logic,” Tella said. “With the literal meaning of words moved off into the background, when normally they would be front and center, body language and other visuals move into the foreground to establish the scene’s meaning. There is a tension between what can be understood clearly and what can’t be grasped.”

She added, “It plays with your expectations. You can expect the unexpected — it sounds cliché, but it’s really a prominent idea in the play: The idea that what we think we know isn’t the full picture, and as well-intentioned as we may be, there is always an element of delusion to our actions.”

The play comically touches on truthful communication, status in the workplace, and globalization of the workplace. People who have found themselves at times working or traveling abroad, in a culture very different from their own, will recognize the often humorously confusing dynamics at work in this world.

Tella said she sees the play in the style of film noir, a feature that carries over into the look and feel of the sound and lighting. The play opens with a song with lyrics that are part of the script, but with music composed by UT music student Stephen Caldwell. It recalls the Rat Pack era of the 1940s, but with updated elements as well.

“One of the reasons I like this play,” Tella said, “is that it’s a huge challenge and a huge reward for the students to make a fictional foreign language real, to invent the world of this imaginary country and workplace, to create mannerisms and a cultural identity that is at once strange and yet very familiar. I think they pulled it off.”

Cast members are Victoria Zajac as Sara; Carter Makiewicz as Lowell; Kurt Elfering as Nicol; Wonhee Kim as Irene and anonymous woman; Alexis Johnson as James; and Justin Petty as Simon and Paul.

Tickets are $8 for students and children; $10 for UT faculty, staff and alumni, and military members and seniors; and $15 for the general public. Call 419.530.ARTS (2787) or order online at Tickets also will be available at the door.

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