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Seduced’ highlights infamous Hughes’ madness

Tae Andrews | Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Elizabeth “Biz” Lohmuller describes putting on the play “Seduced” as “just plain crazy.”

However, as the director and the woman behind the scenes responsible for the method behind the madness, she has embraced the challenge of putting on a play based on the final years of Howard Hughes’ life, as he descended into madness and kept himself in seclusion from the rest of the world.

“Howard Hughes is basically nuts,” she said. “His life story is so out there it’s literally unbelievable that someone could live like that. He gets sucked into his desire for money, prestige and control and loses his true identity in the process by becoming a millionaire monster. He is constantly imprisoned by the identity he and society have created for him, which is a false identity. So that in itself creates fantastic material for a play because we all love to see insane stories which are true.”

In order to keep her sanity while running the show, Lohmuller said she adopted a team-oriented approach.

“Developing an overall understanding about what the show means and then putting that into each line took a lot of time,” she said. “The way I overcame it was to talk about it a lot with my actors, who were amazing in helping me put it all together. We figured it all out collaboratively and I think we came up with a pretty good concept.”

That concept owes much to the collective efforts of the small, but talented cast of “Seduced,” which has navigated hectic schedules and late nights in the pursuit of thespian excellence.

“I’ve given up assignments, other activities and sleep for this show,” Connor Kobeski said, “but I know it will all be worth it on opening night.”

Kobeski plays Raul, Henry Hackamore’s butler.

To prepare for her role, Sarah Muscarella, who portrays the character of Luna in the play, said she did some research on Hughes by watching the biopic film “The Aviator,” which follows much of his life.

“My character is loosely based on Katharine Hepburn as I understand her,” Sarah Muscarella said. “Luna is straight out of ‘Fabulous Life of the Rich and Famous.’ While many of the other women may not have fully understood Henry’s strange intricacies, Luna does and at one time even loved Henry. She returns to his deathbed upon his request but not without some reservations.

“I had to figure out what the relationship between Hughes and Hepburn is and thus the relationship between Henry and Luna.”

In terms of the set, Lohmuller decided to keep things simple, using a single room to stress the intimacy of the play. She also said she shied away from anything which would tie the show to a distinct era, opting instead to focus on the play’s enduring relevancy.

“The time period is intentionally ambiguous because I wanted to show that, while this is technically set during the time of Howard Hughes, the themes apply to us today as well,” she said. “They are concepts which are true through all time periods.”

Some of those concepts include the pursuit of fame, fortune and power, as seen through the life and times of Hughes. In the play, the character “Henry Hackamore” represents Hughes and is played by Carl MacMichael.

Lohmuller also believes that watching Hughes’ demise can give insight for college students preparing to enter the real world.

“Henry is like a warning to us,” she said. “He is at the end of his life looking back, realizing he completely sold himself out to getting more power. We can take that message to heart, especially at Notre Dame, where it’s all about being in the right major to get the right job at the right company so we can get the most money. Whether it’s the freshman getting pressure from their parents to enter a certain major, or a senior deciding on which jobs to apply for – the one they want or the one that pays, we are all faced with the seduction of power. This play highlights this issue and shows that by selling ourselves we are losing ourselves and it’s just not worth it.”

Contact Tae Andrews at tandrew1@nd.edu