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Belles cast goes deeper down the ‘Rabbit Hole’

Rebecca O'Neil | Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In preparation for Saint Mary’s spring production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Rabbit Hole,” the cast went to extreme lengths to capture the spirit of their characters.

The play tells the story of a family dealing with the collective and individual grief over the death of a child. Notre Dame senior Chris Sylvestri, who plays a grieving father, said cast members worked with a psychologist to examine the mental state of their respective characters and read articles on parents whose children have died.

“We discussed the grieving process and how different people have particular ways of dealing,” senior Sophie Korson said. “After a certain period of time, people expect you to get over it, but it doesn’t work like that.”

To prepare for the role of Becca, a mother coping with her child’s loss, sophomore Erin Moran searched social media for articles about parents who have lost children.

 “There are Facebook groups,” Moran said. “They offer support for people who can’t accept ‘God needed another angel’ as an explanation for their incredible loss – just like Becca.”

Perhaps the most unconventional way the cast tried to relate to the emotional devastation of the family was by giving their child a face. Sylvestri said he carries around a picture of a smiling little boy in his pocket every day to class.

The cast took these extra measures to combat the sense of disconnect the audience will likely feel, he said.

“We always have that voice in the back of our head that says this sort of thing will never happen to me,” Sylvestri said. “This sort of play reminds us that it could.”

Moran said the play pays tribute in this way to anyone who has ever lost someone close to them.

The intimate cast of five resembled a family long before auditions for “Rabbit Hole” began.

“Honestly, we’ve been building this ensemble since last August,” Korson said. “[Four of the five of us] were in the director, Katie Sullivan’s, characterization class last semester.”

Notre Dame sophomore Conor Nicholl, the actor who was not enrolled in the class, coincidentally plays the one character not related to the rest, Korson said.

Senior Kara Quillard, another cast member, said the comfortable dynamic between the actors benefited the preparation of the play.

“Being tight-knit works to our advantage,” she said. “We’re kind of subconsciously method acting in our day-to-day life.”

The play’s title, a reference to the infamous rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland,” is a double metaphor, according to the cast. Korson said it compares losing oneself in grief to being lost in a rabbit hole and unable to find one’s way out.

Silvestri said the title also expresses the idea of parallel universes.

“Two realms of reality allow for Becca to imagine another life in which her son is still alive, which she uses as a coping method,” Silvestri said.

Although the story is sad, the actors agreed the play is not entirely somber.

“It’s very real, it’s raw, it’s humorous and there’s a lot of truth,” Quillard said.

“Rabbit Hole” will run from Thursday to Sunday at the Moreau Center for the Arts. Tickets can be purchased online or by visiting or calling the Moreau Center box office.