Most people have imagined, if only fleetingly, what hell would be like; others are pretty sure theyâ€™re already living it.
The upcoming play No Exit, translated by Peter Bowles from the original by Jean Paul Sartre, ponders this enigma. The fact that the play opens on Sept. 11 at the Black Box Theater in Potter Hall and is the fifth anniversary of 9/11 played on Director Aaron Westlakeâ€™s decisions about the production.
â€œSomething changed in the world on that day,â€ he said in a press release. â€œWith the knowledge of whatâ€™s happened in the last five years, weâ€™re going to play with what we think will happen in the next five years, and thatâ€™s the world our characters are from.â€
The stage is set in 2011, and Costume Designer Melissa Gregory created the clothing to fit the era.
â€œ(Westlake) told me that he wanted the costumes in 2011,â€ Gregory said. â€œChanging styles are generally reflective of the past, anyway, so that makes it easier.â€
The costumes have a worldly influence. The bellboyâ€™s costume is sleek, modern and European while high collars, sparkly satins and slits will adorn the actresses, Gregory said.
According to the press release, Credeau, played by Anothony Bossler, finds himself in a single room with Inez, played by Jennifer George and Estelle played by Bekka James. His sin had been cowardice in life, and in hell he tries to use the two women as mirrors in which he will see a complacent and reassuring picture of himself.
The women find themselves in the same self-discovery struggle, not liking what they see. Soon they find they are in a self-styled hell where no torture is necessary â€“ they have each other for that. Joining the three in hell is the only inhabitant, the bellboy, played by Christian Burnett.
Jean Paul Sartreâ€™s No Exit was first performed at the Vieux-Colombier in May 1944, just before the liberation of Paris.
â€œThe play is written by one of the most famous existentialists in history, Jean-Paul Sartre,â€ Westlake said. â€œExistentialism is an interest of mine.â€
He also said that one of the things the play accomplishes is getting to the core of what it means to exist. He said the play does this by putting the characters in a situation that reduces them to their essence.
Westlake is the first student of many to direct a show in the regular performance season, Assistant Theatre professor Deny Staggs said in a press release. Westlake won the chance after submitting a proposal to the departmental staff.
â€œWe chose the best proposals from a pool of students who have completed the required classes to allow for a successful process,â€ Staggs said. â€œThe only thing that changes when a student is in charge is that she is on a peer to peer level with cast and crew. The faculty provides as much assistance as is needed with budgeting, set & costume construction, publicity and artistic choices. The student gets an enormous amount of latitude, but with help as needed.â€
Westlake will most likely take advantage of that latitude, as he is experienced and has directed two productions and was assistant director with faculty member Jeremy Warner on another. The choice to direct No Exit wasnâ€™t difficult for him.
â€œI happened to pick up the play at a used bookstore while I was assistant directing Bodies, Rest and Motion last year,â€ Westlake said in a press release. â€œWhen I read it, I was amazed on many levels. One, it was one of the first scripts that I immediately loved upon the first reading. I wasnâ€™t exactly sure why at that point, but I knew I had to read it again. I did, and I just had a gut reaction that this could have the potential to make an
amazing piece of theater.â€
Westlake also co-directed Laundry and Bourbon/Lonstar in conjunction with the theatre fraternity Alpha Psi Omega, which confirmed his desire to direct.
No Exit runs through Sept. 17. Shows are at 8 p.m. on all but the final day, which will be a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $4 for students, university faculty and staff and senior citizens. General admission is $8.