The Collegian
Friday, December 09, 2022

Pulitzer Prize winning play comes to Modlin

"The Skin of Our Teeth," a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Thornton Wilder, will be presented by the University of Richmond's department of theatre and dance starting Nov. 19.

The play follows the trials and tribulations of the fictional Antrobus family, and will be performed in the Alice Jepson Theatre. Dorothy Holland will direct the play. She is an associate professor of theatre, and said she had the production in mind for several years.

"It's very theatrical and funny," Holland said. "It has big ideas and it's in a comedic vein."

The dramatic comedy centers on the four members of the Antrobus family and their maid as they barely survive tragedies, wars and natural disasters. It is from these struggles that the name of the play derives, because the characters are only holding on by "the skin of their teeth."

The cast of 22 is made up of students, faculty and two artists in residence, Joe Inscoe and Irene Ziegler Aston. Inscoe and Aston are playing Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus. Freshman Jackson Knox, who plays their son Henry, said working with the artists in residence had been enlightening.

"We have good chemistry overall," Knox said. "They are really fun to work with, and they are helpful, they are always giving us tips."

The other main characters in the play are the Antrobus' daughter Gladys, played by sophomore Caitlyn Duer, and the family's maid Sabina, played by Richmond alumna Liz Kirkwood. Kirkwood returned to Richmond to be in the play after falling in love with her character.

"She is really, really fun and really interesting," Kirkwood said. "She is always the other woman, and she has such ideas about where she wants to go."

The play includes many time periods, as well as an atmosphere of unrest, which stems from the World War II era when Wilder wrote it. The problems the family faces are allusions to historical, biblical and political events, among other things, said Veronica Seguin, a junior and assistant director of the production.

"It is a comedy with a message," Seguin said. "It is a story of humanity and the resilience of the human race."

The comedy aspect of the play makes it easier for the audience to absorb its message, Holland said.

"Because it's theatrical, it can talk about more important issues," Holland said. "It's a funny and provocative view of the human race. Despite humanity's foibles and failings and embarrassments, somehow we manage to survive."

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Because the original play opened in 1942, Holland said she had worked to modernize certain elements. The additions include a sparkly set, updated costume design, televisions piled on the edge of the stage, segways and more modern language included in the script. Seguin said the combination of the prehistoric and the modern added even more humor to the play.

"You see dinosaurs, mammoths, segways and T. V .'s all on stage at the same time," she said.

The purpose of all modernization was to make the play as current now as it was when Wilder wrote it, Holland said.

"He was cutting edge and speaking to his time," Holland said, "And we needed to do it too, so there is a mixture of different time periods."

Although the set, costumes and script were modernized, both Holland and cast members said the play itself was timeless. Holland said she saw themes of climate change, economic crisis and political wrong-doing as particularly prevalent, and Seguin said she hoped the audience would notice the allusions to current political candidates. The play remains relevant, Knox said, because the audience can relate to the families' crises.

"So many problems the characters face are problems that we all face today," Knox said.

The show opens on Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and will run until Nov. 22 at the Alice Jepson Theatre. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, students, UR alumni and employees, $6 for children, and $10 for Richmond students.

Contact reporter Kate Foss at kate.foss@richmond.edu

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