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The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

Stephanie DePrez | Monday, April 7, 2008

The phrase “Faust at Notre Dame” has been thrown around a lot this year, appearing on posters and in seminars across campus, but this month is comes to its grand climax. Two productions of Faust, a play and an opera, are opening. The renowned work “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” opens this evening on the Decio Mainstage Theatre, in what will prove to be one of the most inventive and innovative productions of the piece this side of Shakespeare.

This production will prove to be far more than a simple retelling of the Faust story. Its conventions are unexpected, especially of a work as old and revered as Faust. Faust himself is the only character to wear seemingly normal clothing. The rest of the cast dons tight-fitting body suits in different colors. The idea of “ensemble” is stressed, and the actors portray devils present among us in the world.

Huyen Nguyen, one of the actresses of the ensemble, says she found herself in this production because she enjoyed working with the director, Anton Juan, in voice and movement class. She says that he is “a wonderful director. World renown. This is the first show I’ve worked with him, and it’s quite an experience. He makes you think outside the box,” she said. She hints that the show “will be very stimulating for the senses.” Nguyen described how Juan asked that their voices be “otherworldly, because sins are not of this world.”

It is a technically heavy show. Caitlyn Madden, Assistant Technical Director, stressed that it is “one of the best shows going on here, and will have plenty of spectacle. There’s a lot to see.” The costumes and tech work help create a show that is “exciting, dark and intriguing.”

Juan describes it as “fluid as a nightmare, but as hilarious as burlesque.” It centers on “the choice of man between good and evil, and the edges of presumption and despair.” The production is worked so that it invokes the general feeling of the painting “Garden of Delight” by Bosch, which is three panels visual of debauchery, but has very strong similarities to the Garden of Eden.

The cast is large at 23 people, and several stage managers and dressers. It is one of the biggest shows FTT has ever put on. “It is visually delightful with lots of surprises,” Juan said. “There are surprises from theatre floor to theatre ceiling.”

“The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” us one of Marlowe’s most famous plays. The story follows the tale of a prideful professor who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for great power.

The play originally debuted in connection with the works of Shakespeare in the 1590s and is widely considered the first theatrical representation of the legend of Faust.

According to the play’s official website, the production is part of the College of Arts and Letter’s “Faust at Notre Dame,” a series of events that explores the figure of Faust, the ideas behind the figure, its 500-year tradition and how it connects the many disciplines of the College.

Other events include a series of Faust-related films, a reconstruction of the 1859 version of Gounod’s opera, Faust , an exhibit of illustrations in the Snite Museum of Art, a Faust at Notre Dame interdisciplinary scholarly conference, a University Seminar, “Doctor Faustus: Selling One’s Soul to the Devil” and College Seminar classes.

Overall, the series examines the Faust theme, that is, the human desire for power, the temptations of the devil, and the idea of Christian redemption – all through the scope of one of the greatest and most powerful plays ever written.

Tickets are $12 for the general public, $10 for faculty/staff/senior citizens and $8 for all students and can be purchased at the DPAC box office or online at performingarts.nd.edu.