Eastern Theatre Takes Spectators on a Journey ‘To Damascus’

“Here, Strindberg’s vision is closer to a nightmare,” writes Director David Pellegrini of the author. “This is particularly evident in the horror-tinged scenes in the first part (of the trilogy).”

Eastern Connecticut State University’s fine arts building was transformed into a performance venue at large as “To Damascus” brought spectators on a stage-hopping journey from April 23–28. The main-stage production was based on August Strindberg’s seminal trilogy “The Road to Damascus” and adapted/directed by Theatre Professor David Pellegrini.

The show follows a man on a fascinating and sometimes terrifying spiritual journey. Small groups of viewers followed the journey through scenes in multiple settings throughout the Fine Arts Instructional Center — including the building’s three performance venues, main lobby, rear loading dock and select classrooms.

The traveling, multi-venue format of “To Damascus” mimics the approach of medieval-cycle plays (a medieval type of theatre), in which theatregoers visited “stations” throughout town. The play also extends the palindromic structure — in which the protagonist passes through several settings, then returns to them in reverse order —  to the entire trilogy.

 

The trilogy’s pieces are rarely produced together — even in Strindberg’s homeland of Sweden. Pellegrini writes in his director’s notes: “The trilogy contains many stylistic innovations and offers a penetrating exploration of creativity, human potential and the causes for — and possible remedies to — human suffering.

“I have long been intrigued by the possibilities of an interdisciplinary production of ‘To Damascus,’” he added, “and university theatre is perhaps the most appropriate setting for its incubation. This is, in part, due to the myriad opportunities for recontextualizing the ‘Stranger’s journey’ in light of present-day concerns, but also because it provides a potent vehicle for student actors, designers and technicians to practice nontraditional production processes afforded by new media/performance technology.”

The cast and crew of “To Damascus” are Eastern students who are enrolled in the capstone course “Experimental Theatre.” The production features theatre majors as actors, designers and technicians, as well as new-media studies students who have created the media content alongside faculty mentor-artists.

Written by Michael Rouleau