Putting Science Center Stage: Department of Theatre Presents ‘Arcadia’

This season, the Department of Theatre has brought a wide assortment of stories to the stage. Productions have subjects ranging from serial killers to high school students, rural Florida to a national cheerleading competition. The upcoming play this month is no different as theater takes on an entirely new area of study: science.

“Arcadia,” written by Tom Stoppard in 1993, examines the dichotomous relationships between past and present, organization and chaos, and love and death. As the timeline jumps between the nineteenth century to a modern day 1993, two sets of characters reveal their connections and relationships in different ways. Much of the action centers around Sidley Park, a country house in Derbyshire, England, and the studies of young genius Thomasina Coverly.  Thomasina’s work is examined through the lens of each era, bringing to light the motivations and histories of those involved. By examining their human experiences through concepts in philosophy, history, math and biology, the play evaluates how science and logic may come together with emotion and feeling.

Coltyn Robert Giltner, a senior in the Actor Training Program at the U, will be playing Valentine Coverly, one of the modern day characters. Valentine, a post-graduate biology student, helps communicate scientific ideas to the audience and explains the concepts being discussed. “He’s the source for what’s happening,” Giltner explained. “He’s heady, and short-tempered, and he has an expectation that others already know this information.”

Despite the fact that “Arcadia” is a contemporary piece, its focus on language and science make it extremely complex. Giltner, who played Sir Andre Aguecheek in “Twelfth Night” as part of Salt Lake Shakespeare in 2015, said Stoppard may seem more approachable than Shakespeare. “There’s less of a language barrier,” he concluded. Giltner also explained that “Stoppard is more conversational. […] It’s easy because it’s talking about big ideas, but it’s hard because at the same time, it’s using layman’s terms for high concepts.”

When asked to give advice to incoming audiences, Giltner highlighted the importance of paying attention. “Just be very attentive. There are lots of details in the show,” he said. “If you come and see the show again, you pick up more things.” Given the multifaceted storytelling of this show in particular, it’s important to stay keyed in to the narrative as much as possible in order to absorb it all. “When you come in, just have your best listening hats on,” Giltner added.

The production, directed by theater department faculty Sarah Shippobotham, opens Nov. 11, running until Nov. 20 in the Babcock Theatre at PTC. Free student previews will be held on Nov. 9 and 10. Tickets for “Arcadia” are available at the Kingsbury Hall box office, with discounts available to students through the Arts Pass.

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