The VIU Theatre department’s spring production promises to ask audiences some powerful and thought-provoking questions about human response to crime and prejudice. Lanford Wilson’s The Rimers of Eldritch, first staged in 1966, is the story of a death in small-town Missouri and the speculation and scandal that emerge on the journey to the verdict. A non-typical mystery, the play follows the way the townsfolk react to the murder of the town outcast, and the excuses made to justify the actions of the woman who shot him.
“This play is not the usual story, it has many parts and it forces the audience to see how a small town worked when it came to the judgment of one person’s life. How speculation and uncertainty in the end had a higher cost and allowed the guilty to be free,” Cassie Smith, 18, first-year VIU technical diploma student and the production’s PR representative says.
A substantial amount of student participation and commitment has gone into The Rimers of Eldritch. The cast of the play is large, and in addition to first- and second-year students in the VIU Theatre diploma and degree programs, Smith says audiences can expect to see a first-year student from director Ross Desprez’s class for non-actors, as well as two older actors for the more mature roles. In terms of crew, Smith says “we have many of the stage craft classes involved in the build of the set and costume construction, many of the upper-year students have taken on roles of lighting designer, head carp, properties, sound and light operators, and we have a second-year as the stage manager who has two first year [assistant stage managers].”
While the nature of the large cast is enriching for the story, second-year Theatre student Shauna Bevington, 22, who decided to audition after learning of the play in her acting class, says the ensemble poses some obstacles. “Everyone is on stage the entire time, so it can become difficult in scenes where everyone is moving. You really have to be aware of what everyone else is doing and make sure that you’re not in their way. The scenes also tend to overlap with each other. So there will be two or more conversations at once, and it can be difficult to keep them straight,” Bevington says. However, though slightly complicated, she says this element of the play has allowed her to develop her acting through the different techniques she has learned, and to apply them to her character, Martha Truit. “Each play presents different challenges, in this play there’re several points where I’m on stage but not in the scene, so I’ve had to learn how to keep my focus when I don’t have any lines,” Bevington says. She says the rehearsal structure also helped to ease the actors into the intricate arrangement of the scenes. “When we start working on scenes we start with only a few actors, and work on only the scenes those actors are in. We later bring in everybody and put all the scenes together. So it’s interesting to see how the play all fits together. Also, the more we work on it, the more we discover about our characters, their motivations, and what is happening around them, and that really shows on stage,” Bevington says.
Smith says the large cast will give the audience an increased opportunity to connect with the story. “There are so many characters that I think the audience will be able to identify with one character within the story and hopefully will leave with a new perspective on justice,” Smith says.
Bevington agrees that the production offers a moral comment for viewers to consider. “This play really shines a light on how people behave in society versus how they behave at home. I think that audiences will leave talking about their own life experiences,” she says.
Smith says it has been gratifying to see the hard work of the cast and crew combine to strengthen the play. “The rewarding part would be knowing how your small part does actively work for the good of the production. Everything that goes into the production [is part of an intricate] web, for it to work everyone must be able to pull their weight,” Smith says.
Bevington also has enjoyed being a part of the development of the story, from script to stage. “The most rewarding part of a production is seeing how it transforms from the words on a page at the first read through, into a complete show once the set, costumes, lights, sound, and actors are all put together,” she says.
The Rimers of Eldritch runs Mar. 7–16 at the Malaspina Theatre (bldg. 310) at the VIU Nanaimo Campus. All shows begin at 8 p.m., except for a 4 p.m. showing on Mar. 12, and a matinee at 12 p.m. on Mar. 13. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors, $12 for adults, and can be purchased through the box office at 250-740-6100.