‘Six Degrees of Seperation’ to debut at Krannert Center

By Elizabeth Kim

“Six Degrees of Separation,” the University theatre department’s latest production, opens Thursday night at 7:30 in the Studio Theatre of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. It will run until Sunday, Nov. 13.

Inspired by a true story, John Guare’s satiric drama follows the trail of a young black con artist who installs himself into the lives of a wealthy New York couple by claiming he knows their children from college. The title of the play refers to the statistical theory that any two people in the world can be linked through a chain of exactly six acquaintances, according to the Centerstage newsletter.

“Six Degrees of Separation is fairly recent and a great play dealing with money, race, consumerism and art,” said Robert Graves, the department’s head and artistic director. “We thought the topic was very interesting.”

The process of selecting a play can be difficult, Graves said.

“We try to choose a season for our students that has some classical, some modern and some traditional so they get exposed to a wide variety of the kinds of plays they will be doing when they graduate,” Graves said.

Chicagoan Lynn Ann Bernatowicz, recipient of the 2004 Goodman Theatre Michael Maggio Directing Fellowship, guest directs the production.

James Berton Harris, the department’s director of design, technology and management, said the department was fortunate to have Bernatowicz direct the play.

“We like to have the opportunity where the students could work with outside professional directors,” Harris said. “We wanted someone with contacts in Chicago since many of our students go to Chicago after they graduate.”

Graves said he first discovered Bernatowicz during a conversation with Robert Falls, the artistic director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and graduate of the University’s theatre program.

Bernatowicz said she was excited to have the opportunity to work on such an amazing and important script at the University.

“I love that it was inspired by a true story and how rich the characters are fully-drawn, complex human beings,” Bernatowicz said. “Everyone immediately made me feel welcome, which made my job so much easier.”

Jon Hill, junior in Theatre, plays Paul, the young black con artist.

“Paul is a desperate but sophisticated conman ultimately in search for acceptance,” Hill said. “I love (the play). It covers a journey offering a window into these people’s lives as we follow them through this experience.”

Christina Dideriksen, graduate student, plays Ouisa, an upper class white woman who supports Paul.

“Living in a society in which the superficial facade is highly valued, Paul’s intrusion causes her to question her own identity and place in the world,” Dideriksen said. “As a graduate student approaching graduation and the impending threat of the ‘real world,’ I find myself struggling with the same questions as these characters. Who am I? And where do I belong?”

Although rehearsals can be stressful at times, Bernatowicz said everyone involved in the production enjoys every moment.

“Rehearsals have been going quite well,” she said. “Directing a cast of 17 with audience on four sides is quite a challenge from both an acting and design sense, but the team has tackled all challenges with enthusiasm.”

Dideriksen said she agreed the rehearsals have been hectic, but exciting.

Bernatowicz also offered advice for the audience.

“There are many ideas and themes in ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ and I encourage each audience member to allow different things to touch and speak to them,” she said.