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True West Debuts @ Arts Council Loft Theater

Audrey Boyle ‘21 rehearses for True West, showing this weekend at the Loft. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

A production of Sam Shepard’s “True West” directed by Jacob Leder ‘20 opens today at the Loft Theater in Grinnell.

The performance features Nicole Rosengurt ‘20 as Lee, Audrey Boyle ‘21 as Austin, Conner Stanfield ‘21 as Mom, and Harry Gale ‘20 as Saul Kimmer. The show’s two main characters are written as men in the original play, but the show is cast so that the two main characters are played by woman actors (Boyle and Rosengurt), and the characters themselves have been rewritten as variant versions of the ones from Shepard’s script.

Four minutes before the scheduled start of the night’s rehearsal, the five actors stand in a circle on the floor of the Loft Theater in the Grinnell Area Arts Council building. The Loft, a low-ceilinged room with dark walls and a scuffed black floor, is located on the building’s top floor. The black box-style theatre is filled with an assortment of culinary objects, set dressing for the upcoming production. The set looks like a fairly standard kitchen, complete with dishwasher, sink, table, and a battered refrigerator, but made slightly surreal by the presence of at least twenty potted plastic plants, which range from six- or seven-foot trees in wicker baskets to small, flowerless gardenias scattered along the edges of the room.

Leder said, “It’s always exciting to see your work come together. The amount of time we’ve put into this, the amount of thought that we’ve given the script, the design, … just how much this has consumed our lives, just to see what it looks like as a real performance is going to be incredible.”

The play focuses on the tension between siblings Lee and Austin. Austin is a successful Hollywood scriptwriter, while Lee is a drifter who mocks her sister’s “artistic” intentions. Each is envious of the other’s lifestyle, this jealousy emerging as expressions of both anger and familiarity. The set, while small, provides ample space for the show’s mobile choreography, particularly for Rosengurt in the first act, and for Boyle in the second.

All of the cast members emphasized their enjoyment of the production process and their excitement for the upcoming shows.

Boyle said, “I have really enjoyed … doing text analysis with my fellow actors and with our director, because it’s such a well-written play and there’s so much in the text that we’ve … just sat down and analyzed it, and it’s been really cool to do that.”

Meanwhile, Gale said, “This has been a very fun process — it was very low-pressure; you could try anything.”

Carlos Ventura ‘20 and Yonu Cha ‘20 are both members of the technical crew for the performances. Both emphasized the high-energy nature of the production.

“The actors bring a lot of energy and really make the show feel lively,” said Ventura, while Cha said, “One of the things that Jacob [Leder] encouraged was not being afraid to take … saturated color risks [with the lighting], and that adds a sort of energy.”

“True West” will open at the Loft Theater at 926 Broad St., on Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m., and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 21. Tickets for all showtimes are currently sold out, but anyone who does not have a ticket and wishes to attend may request to be placed on the waitlist either at the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts box office or by arriving at the Loft Theater 30 minutes before the show is scheduled to start.

Audrey Boyle ‘21 rehearses for True West, showing this weekend at the Loft. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
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