18th-Century Comedy, 21st-Century Relevance
Masters, servants trade places on island where ex-slaves have upended the "old order"
October 22, 2015
A nearly 300-year-old comedy, newly translated and directed by Knox College theatre professor Neil Blackadder, explores topics that are still current in today's society. "The Island of Slaves" focuses on relationships between economic and social classes: "masters and servants," as they were called in the 1700s when Pierre Marivaux wrote the play.
The play is presented at 7:30 p.m. nightly, from Wednesday, Oct. 28 through Saturday, Oct. 31, in Harbach Theatre, Ford Center for the Fine Arts, on the Knox campus in Galesburg, Illinois. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and Knox College alumni, and are available at the door starting one hour before each performance.
"The Island of Slaves," which premiered in Paris in 1725, depicts four survivors of a shipwreck -- a gentleman and his valet, a lady and her maid. The characters find themselves stranded on an unusual island, one that has been occupied for many years by former slaves.
"When people get stranded on this island, they must switch roles," Blackadder explains. "Servants become masters, and masters find out what it's like to be servants," he says.
"Marivaux's play is at once an enchanting commedia dell'arte-inspired comedy and an up-to-date exploration of social and economic power relations."
In addition to creating the new translation for this production, Blackadder also has engaged the student cast in a collaborative rehearsal and character development process.
"I have worked directly with the cast to develop the production approach, and to help me refine the translation," Blackadder says.
Blackadder is an internationally renowned translator of contemporary drama from German and French, many of which have been published and presented in performances and staged readings. At Knox, he teaches dramatic literature and theatre history, dramaturgy, and playwriting. Knox College theatre productions he has directed include the English-language world premiere of his translation of "Rosa and Blanca" by German playwright Rebekka Kricheldorf.
Photos above: students Lee Foxall and Van Johnson as master and servant, respectively, rehearsing "The Island of Slaves"; below cast and crew working with director Neil Blackadder.
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The Island of Slaves, October 28-31, 2015, Harbach Theatre, Knox College
Cast and crew, students except where noted
Lee Foxall - Iphicrates
Van Johnson - Harlequin
Sophie Utpadel - Euphrosyne
Hanna Levine - Cleanthis
Katie Greve - Islander
Nabiha Mansoor - Islander
Parker Adams - Islander
Peter Rule - Islander
Neil Blackadder - Faculty Director, Translator
Megan Smith - Assistant Director
Emma Lipson - Stage Manager
Aidan Murphy - Assistant Stage Manager
John Flanagan - Assistant Stage Manager
Ly Luong - Assistant Stage Manager
Craig Choma - Faculty Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Technical Director
Margo Shively - Faculty Costume Designer
Jayel Gant - Assistant Costume Designer
Savannah Trent - Sound Designer
Ali Sweet - Assistant Sound Designer
Joel Schleicher - Sound Consultant
Ren Barkey - Props Master