By April Short
City on a Hill Press Editor
Greed, avarice, poverty, hunger.
These issues plague today’s society as they plagued the society of Charles Dickens in 1836 when he penned his novel “Nicholas Nickleby.” In lieu of today’s tough economic times, these afflictions resonate all too well with modern ears.
A collection of UCSC student actors will come together this week to relate Dickens’ ageless themes of social justice to a Mainstage Theater audience as they present David Edgar’s 1980 stage adaptation of the Dickens novel, “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.”
Opening night of the play will attempt to attack a main theme of the play —hunger — on a local sphere, and will benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz.
“I just think it’s so wonderful when you get youth involved [in food donation],” said Christine Woodard, youth development officer at Second Harvest Food Bank. “It sends a message out to the community when the youth are involved in something like this.
“It’s just such an opportunity, especially in this part of the year, when we are having a late rainy season. It’s especially vital now that we have donations and get food to people who need it,” she continued. “I am very encouraged by the students at UCSC who are always so willing to take action and really participate.”
Kathy Foley, director of the performance, has taught theater arts at UC Santa Cruz for around 25 years. She said she chose this particular play because of its relevance to the issues being faced in today’s world.
“The play is a commentary about how you overturn a structure that is about greed and start to create a new order which is more socially responsible,” Foley said. “Some of the themes within the play which resonate with people today are questions of ‘How do you build a community that is responsible when some of the political and other structures at top — the rich — are thinking only about themselves?’”
For the play’s debut, attendees are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items or cash contributions, which will be presented to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.
All who contribute a donation of at least $1 will be charged only a $2 ticketing fee, as opposed to the general admission fee of $14. All UCSC undergraduates with valid student ID cards, however, are charged only the $2 fee regardless of donation.
The play is constructed in a humorous fashion, though it comments on serious issues. It is a stage adaptation of Dickens’ story about two naïve young people, Nicholas and his sister Kate, who undergo poverty and hardship at the hands of several villainous characters. In typical Dickens fashion, the play employs comedy and irony to highlight societal issues of corruption and greed.
“Students have gone into it with the mindset of Dickens, which involves making serious things funny,” Foley said. “Even the villains give you a good laugh.”
Nicole Kurianowicz, like the rest of the cast, has worked on “The Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” throughout its entire quarter-long process. Kurianowicz plays the role of a married lady named Mrs. Kenwigs.
“It’s basically been a really long, hard process, because we have such a big ridiculous cast and it’s hard to get everyone in the same room at the same time, but its pretty cool once you all get together and you get to see everyone’s costumes and stuff,” Kurianowicz said. “It looks like it’s really coming together — the finished product looks really cool.”
Although the show is particularly lengthy, lasting roughly four hours with a single intermission, Foley said she expects it will keep audiences engaged. “Its so funny — there are so many characters … I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much during any rehearsal process,” she said.
“The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” is coupled with a symposium entitled “Art, Community and Society.” The symposium is intended for theater arts programs on campus to come together in a discussion of the role of the arts in times of financial and moral frailty.
“I want [audiences] to go away with ideas of how art can play into the community and bring up themes that are real issues,” Foley said. “We are having the symposium on Sunday for theatre groups to talk about how in hard times artists can be working collaboratively to share what resources we have and make the world better.”
<i>“Nicholas Nickleby” opens Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m., with repeat performances on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. All will be held at the Mainstage Theater. </i>
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