Cultures Collide in ‘Chalk Circle’

Elizabeth Myers

La’Nette Searcy, senior musical theatre major, narrates the story of the “Caucasian Chalk Circle” while acting graduate student Nicole Perrone, who plays a servant who rescues the governor’s baby, stands in the snow. Elizabeth Myers | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Despite its name, the final production of the season for the Kent Theatre Department incorporates a variety of cultures.

“Caucasian Chalk Circle” was written by a German playwright, in America, set in the Caucasus Mountains in Turkey and based off of a Bible story and a Chinese parable.

While most plays flow seamlessly through transitions and scene changes, in “Chalk Circle,” each scene is announced by the characters and each time in a different language: English, German, Chinese and other languages.

“At its most basic,” Nicole Perrone, second-year acting graduate student, explains, “it’s about a kitchen maid who rescues a baby.”

Perrone plays Grusha, the kitchen maid who saves the son of the governor during an attack amidst civil war. Grusha flees the pursuing “ironshirts” who are trying to seize the child and arrest Grusha for kidnapping.

Guest director Matthew Earnest, who was brought to Kent State through the Roe Green Visiting Director series, said this is a play he “deeply loves” and has “wanted to direct [his] whole life.” Earnest is a professional theater director who became known to the Kent State department through his work at Porthouse Theatre.

“It’s very long. Over two hours,” Earnest said, “but it’s action-packed. Grusha … is an action-hero.”

“I feel like an action-hero,” Perrone said, responding to the director’s comment.

While most plays rely on dialogue to create action in a play, the action is already there, Perrone said, whose character is constantly running and fleeing throughout the show. The aisle ways and top of the theater are constant pathways for the characters.

Toward the end of the show, the child’s birth mother has demanded the return of her baby. The decision is left in the hands of Judge Azdak, played by Gabriel Riazi, senior musical theater major.

“Azdak takes advantage of a chaotic time,” Riazi said, explaining the character’s Robin Hood mentality of taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

“The judge is of questionable character,” Perrone said. “It’s significant that this judge has the decision.”

“Chalk Circle” is set in a post World War II era and explores heavy themes which question the processes of justice and law.

Even though “Chalk Circle” is based in a different era and on ancient parables, Riazi believes it still relates to today’s society, exploring concepts of class, war, motherhood and responsibility.

“This is a time for change,” Riazi said, “and this play expresses that.”

“Caucasian Chalk Circle” opens at 8 p.m. tonight in Wright-Curtis Theatre in the Music and Speech Center. The play continues through April 27 with 8 p.m. shows during the week and 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Tickets are $8 for students, $14 for adults, and are available through the box office (330)-672-2497.

Contact performing arts reporter Elizabeth Myers at [email protected].