Black eyes, strangulation and sexual assault are elements that rarely appear in the productions at Tom Miles Theatre. Senior Lindsay Partain breaks this cycle by directing Tennessee Williams short play “27 Wagons Full of Cotton,” which tackles the darker themes found in theatre, primarily domestic abuse.
Partain found herself directing “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” for spring semester after a few years of Drama Club trying to get the production off the ground.
“I am a fangirl for Tennessee Williams,” Partain said. “And I know that it would be a real joy to dig into such a meaty and controversial script.”
Partain shows her excitement for directing a play so different from the mainstream student productions in the past few years.
“I think it’s going to shock the crap out of everyone,” Partain said. I think everyone’s going to be unsure of how to take it in because it is such a different piece. I know that they’ve kind of gotten accustomed to this lighthearted, comedy-central version of theatre, and I guess what I wanted to do was show
people we’re serious actors and we can take on serious roles and we can discover and talk about serious topics as well.”
William’s play acts as a three- person show, with sophomore Rachel Warrick playing Flora, senior Ryan Himes playing the role of Jake, and senior Ethan Dung playing the role of Silva. The play follows Flora as she tries to keep the abuse from her husband Jake a secret, but to little or no avail.
“Silva is a very interesting character,” Partain said. “He’s so complicated and his motivations and tactics are always changing. He’s always watching Flora with this really interesting eye, and seeing how she’s responding to his movements and his words and using it every step of the way.”
The play’s run time is approximately 40 minutes, making it challenging, yet rewarding for the actors to show off their character development in a limited amount of time.
“We didn’t take it as far as I’m sure other productions have done,” Warrick said. “So it’s coming in understanding the story, and how it could be a little tough to watch, but it’s strong at the end. I feel like Flora grows, and at the end… you really see the strength that this woman has, and it’s empowering.”
Warrick stated that since the role requires her to be in potentially uncomfortable scenes, a lot of trust was present while rehearsing those scenes.
“Our first rehearsals were kind of slow to get moving because we all felt the discomfort,” Warrick said. “It’s been a lot of trust that we have grown through each other. I trust Ryan and Ethan so much, and it’s great being friends and being able to work in a safe space understanding each other.”
While all of the actors were open for giving their character’s justice, Partain made sure that each actor’s limits and safety were priorities during each rehearsal.
“27 Wagons Full of Cotton” will be playing on Feb. 25 and Feb 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the BlackBox Theatre, Warner 5.
Partain wants to express that this play does hold multiple trigger warnings.
“Just keep in mind that it’s set in 1936 in Mississippi,” Partain said. “There’s going to be some strong language. I wouldn’t advise it for anyone under 16. There’s going to be scenes of domestic violence on stage, trigger warnings for rape as well, so keep an open mind when you see it, take Tennessee Williams with a grain of salt, and come out of it a better person, hopefully.”