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Art dusts off Pericles

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
"Pericles" -In this scene from the School of Theatre Arts' upcoming production, Pericles (Joey Snider) pontificates on his intent to risk his life in order to win the hand of King Antiochus' daughter (Elizabeth Keller) from the hands of the Skullers (Jonathan Hicks and Tim McKiernan).
By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 24, 2005
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Sometimes it's fun to imagine that characters in Shakespeare's plays are real people. That, after the play is over, they go home, plunk down on their couches and flip on the TV. Othello likes "Fear Factor" and Hamlet is a big "Six Feet Under" fan. On Saturday nights their cell phones ring, and they're out the door.

But if Shakespeare's characters were real, I would also imagine that some of them wouldn't be as popular as the Prince of Denmark. On Saturday night Pericles sits alone in his studio apartment, waiting for the phone to ring, hoping that Lady Macbeth will invite him to the party.

Luckily for Pericles, the UA's Arizona Repertory Theater has taken it upon itself to pick him up and take him for a much-needed night on the town.

"I think 'Pericles' is a little more fun (than Shakespeare's other plays)," said acting senior Mandell Maughan. "But there are a lot of morals and you have to play it realistic so that the audience can understand the same things Shakespeare's audience understood."

"Playing it realistic" isn't as easy as it sounds with a play like "Pericles." The action begins when Pericles, Prince of Tyre, journeys to Antioch to marry King Antiochus' daughter. When he gets there he finds himself faced with a riddle wrapped in a dilemma: Answer the riddle correctly and he gets Antiochus's daughter. Answer incorrectly and get a quick death.

"Pericles solves the riddle and finds that Antiochus has a less-than-appropriate relationship with his daughter," said Spencer Dooley, an acting senior who plays Antiochus and Cleon. "Antiochus is a pretty bad dude. I look at him as an example of what not to do with your life."

Rather than expose Antiochus' secret and risk death, Pericles flees back to Tyre. Fearing that Antiochus would rather destroy Pericles' home than have his secret exposed, Pericles departs Tyre to travel, assuring the safety of the city.

"Most of the rest of the play is about Pericles' travels," said Maughan.

In the course of these travels, Pericles saves the kingdom of Cleon, meets his wife Thaisa (played by Maughan), has a child with her, watches her die, then learns she's not really dead, then returns to Tyre and is crowned king. Whew. But it's not over. His daughter Marina is kidnapped by pirates and sold to a brothel, only to convince her potential clients of the error of their ways, and subsequently becomes a teacher for young girls.

"Each scene is another lesson to be learned," said Dooley. "The play is made up of different morals."

But are these morals as true today as they were in Shakespeare's time?

"Well, people still seem to think sleeping with your daughter is a bad thing," said Dooley. "I think that the play itself has a timeless setting, though. 'Pericles' is set in Greece, but we mix, match and borrow from other eras and places."

Perhaps the relative unfamiliarity of the play helps to lend it a timeless feel. Both Maughan and Dooley see the upsides in performing in a lesser-known work.

"Doing Shakespeare is different than any other style because it's all about the text," said Maughan. "You have to dissect the play to understand the characters. Thaisa is a very interesting role. She is a very honest character, very kind. It's nice to play her because you can see how she is very vulnerable in certain ways, and I can connect with her because I sometimes experience those same vulnerabilities. You've got to find the deeper meaning (when performing Shakespeare), and her vulnerability plays into that."

While Maughan was able to connect to the rest of the play through her character, the play is the thing that draws the characters together for Dooley.

"Most of the Shakespeare plays people study are centered around one character," said Dooley. "So when they go see a play, people are looking for that one character. The play is called 'Pericles,' but it's much more of an ensemble piece than many of the tragedies. There are over 40 speaking roles and the cast is doing surprisingly well. When we began rehearsing, Brent (Gibbs, director) told us we were going to 'just try' to pull everything together. And, even though there are a lot of less-experienced actors in the cast, it's come together very well."

ART's production of "Pericles" previews Sunday at 1:30 p.m., Monday at 7:30 p.m. and will run March 2-5, 10-12 and 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. and March 6, 12 and 27 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, general; $23, senior citizens/UA employees; $18, students; and $16, previews. Tickets are available through the UA Fine Arts Box Office (621-1162).

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