From a spokeswoman struggling for words in the wake of a tragedy to a poetic coach coming undone at the end of a dismal season, Mount Saint Mary College’s presentation of Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions by Will Eno will tell five short tales of life, love, and redemption on November 9, 10, and 11.
The performances, one per night, will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Aquinas Hall Theatre, 330 Powell Ave., Newburgh. Admission is $5, or free with a Mount ID. Seating is extremely limited and reservations are highly recommended. For reservations, call the box office at 845-569-3273.
Director James Phillips, associate professor of theatre, noted that even though Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions consists of five separate stories, there’s a common thread linking them all together.
“There’s a theme of people trying to achieve their goals and failing, but then they get up and deal with it,” he said. “Most of our entertainment is people going out and succeeding – The Avengers don’t lose, for example – but this is a play where none of the characters are really great. That’s a fact of life: sometimes we don’t get the girl, win the game, or even understand why we’re here on Earth.”
With a minimalist approach to staging and set design, as well as a small cast, the production is allowing students to concentrate on their acting and characterization, noted Phillips.
“It strips away everything you can hide behind and the students just have to figure out who are these people, what are they going through, and what do they want,” he said.
For the first time since beginning his teaching career at Mount Saint Mary College about 10 years ago, Phillips is a member of the cast.
“It’s important for students to see us [professors] work,” he explained. “As a professor, when we walk into the classroom, we have to be the experts…and they really haven’t seen how we get there. Getting to see me have to really work to get things right and seeing me struggle sometimes shows the students my learning process. Sometimes – like the play is talking about – you fall down. But you get better at things by trying again.”
His performance is an extension of teaching, said Phillips. And teaching through hands-on theater is one of his greatest joys as a Mount professor.
“Starting from an idea and figuring out how to make something that will hopefully touch the audience is a joy,” he said. “Working with students in this way, for hours and hours a week, is an intensity you just can’t get in a classroom.”