Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, the student honors production of the French farce “Boeing, Boeing” will portray a comedic take on stereotypes and changing expectations.
The play, written originally by Marc Camoletti in the 1960s, is produced by Blackfriars, a student-run theatre organization, and the Oswego State theatre department. It is completely funded by Student Association, whereas other theatre productions are funded by departmental budgets. It tells the story of an arrogant Parisian man, Bernard, juggling three fiancees, one Italian, one German and one American.
The honors production has been months in the making. Honors theatre shows are entirely student run, as opposed to the other theatre productions, which use staff and faculty for most of the higher positions.
“This is the opportunity where they want as many students involved as possible to show what they can do and show they are capable of putting on a full production,” said Megan Hickey, theatre major and director for the production.
Staff are involved in vetting the many positions, but beyond that, the intent is to leave it largely up to the students.
“I think the most important thing is to find the balance between mentoring…[and] also ensuring that the best possible production comes together,” said Jennifer Knapp, interim theatre department director.
Those involved in the show see the student involvement as beneficial to the show and to those who participate in any aspect of the play.
“We see it as a badge of honor,” Knapp said. “Come to SUNY Oswego, where if you make the cut…you’ll get an opportunity that no other school is going to give you.”
The production started as a student submission to the play selection committee in the theatre department. Knapp said the French farce was chosen because it was easier for students to handle with a small cast and fun comedic subjects.
Once “Boeing, Boeing” was selected, students interested in directing had a certain amount of time to come in with their resume, cover letter and director’s concept, which includes what the play, characters and set will look like and what the message will be.
Hickey said her concept was all about challenging existing expectations.
“That’s kind of what farce does,” Hickey said. “It takes human behavior and stereotypes, and they can point them out, and sometimes they can reverse them.”
Though some characters start out as a one-dimensional stereotype, by the end of the play, many of the characters transform and adjust, showing how stereotypes are often wrong.
“I think, for most of the characters, there is some sort of change in their attitudes of things,” said Jada Sterling, who portrays Gretchen in the play. “There are lessons learned on the show.”
Getting in touch with the dynamic characters was a growing experience for the actors, who are mostly non-theatre majors, but Hickey said it was well worth it.
“I love how genuinely hard they’re working,” Hickey said. “To see how much better their skills are progressing just within a few months is a really fun time.”
Rehearsals started for the actors about a month after they were chosen, and the schedule was every day from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Student actors worked with each other and their director to fully develop the characters through methods like tabling. Tabling involves a director sitting down with the actor for at least 30 minutes to ask the actor questions while they are in character.
“It’s a very deep analysis of who your character is and becoming that person,” Sterling said. “I think that having an idea of where your character comes from has a huge impact on how you react to things on stage [and] how you carry yourself.”
The production itself was a long road with some drawbacks along the way. About three weeks before opening night, Hickey said one of the original actors quit for academic reasons, forcing her to find someone else last minute. Who they found turned out to be perfect for the role, she said.
“The person we cast is amazing,” Hickey said. “He’s show-ready. Everybody says it was like a blessing in disguise.”
Beyond the casting struggle, actors had to practice and memorize their lines, getting in touch with their characters while still keeping up with school work.
“That was a struggle, but I feel like that’s going to be a struggle with any play that you do,” Sterling said. “There’s only six of us, so each one of us has a responsibility to the show.”
Though actors have to portray characters set in the ‘60s, those involved said the content and subject matter is still relevant today, especially when it comes to the portrayal of gender roles.
“You could say that there’s a lot of misogyny in the show, so obviously, that’s super timely right now,” Knapp said.
Hickey said that the play also sends a message of getting along with others even when they do not have much in common.
“I believe it’s relevant to anyone who interacts with someone who has a different background than they are,” Hickey said.
Because of the setting, there is definitely a change in culture from the ‘60s to today that the audience will notice, Sterling said.
“I think it’s very relevant to themes today in terms of relationships,” Sterling said. “If some of the things that happened in the show happened today, it would be a Title IX nightmare.”
Though most of the show is intended to be a comedy, there is a certain portrayal that the audience may notice reveals some hard realities about modern American life.
“Even though it tries to play with these stereotypes and these funny situations, they still spill out truth of how humans can genuinely interact with each other,” Hickey said.
In all, students worked long hours to dig deep into the characters and put on the best show for the Oswego State audience.
“To have students pull this off is pretty remarkable,” Knapp said. “It’s something to be proud of.”
The play will be performed at the Tyler Hall Lab theatre at 7:30 p.m. from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 with a 2 p.m. finale Dec. 3. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $7 for students at the walk-up window.
Photo: Taylor Woods | The Oswegonian