OSWEGO — The SUNY Oswego theatre department will present a one-performance staged reading at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, of famed playwright George Bernard Shaw’s “The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet: A Sermon in Crude Melodrama.”
The performance — free and open to the public, but ticketed — will take place in Marano Campus Center auditorium, Room 132.
When a lone cowboy named Blanco Posnet is accused of stealing the sheriff’s horse in a pioneer town in the American West, a trial is set. In a town full of smoking, drinking and cheating, people would like to see nothing less than Blanco Posnet’s death, merely for entertainment purposes.
“(Blanco) is at the mercy of this ignorant, rotten town,” said Steven York of the theatre department, who directs the stage reading. “Blanco himself is considered this great villain, but throughout the play he recites poetry.”
“Shewing” in the title is the British equivalent of “showing.” The late Irish playwright described the 1909 play as “a religious tract in dramatic form,” and he fought English censors over language thought to flout the blasphemy law of that era.
“The language is strong,” said Bryce Cohen, a broadcasting communications major, who plays the lead role.
And Shaw had strong feelings on censorship. In a speech he gave before the first performance of “Blanco Posnet,” the playwright said, “The English censor exists to keep (the people) from finding out the fact. He gives them incomplete arguments, sentimental half-truths, and above all he keeps dramatists from giving them anything in sudden phrases that would startle them into the perception of reality.”
Theatre faculty member Toby Malone, who specializes in and teaches dramaturgy, describes the work as “a very obscure play,” one that questions, “Why do we believe in God blindly?”
The staged reading of the play will express concerns with morality, Malone said: “What is moral and how do we define what is moral?”
The vision of the play, York said, is “to present a piece that the audience can listen to with their eyes closed and be able to determine everything that is going on.”
“We have these really bold characters and our goal is to be able to bring that unique characterization through voices alone, without relying on scenic elements, wardrobe, sets, lights or sound,” York said.
The student cast also features William Carr in the role of Elder Daniels, while Douglas Woolever plays Sheriff Kemp. Other players include Autumn Pollock (Feemy Evans), Lilly Talmage (Jessie), Taelor Pittman (Hannah), Ryan Parrish (Strapper Kemp), Anastasia Grimando West (Emma) and Kayla Elfers (Babsy).
With 12 actors and more than a dozen characters, some students play multiple roles, such as Madelyn Crews as The Woman and Lottie, Dylan Buzzanca as The Narrator and The Foreman, and Ervin Bautista as Nestor, Waggoner Joe and The Boys.
‘Google for theatre’
Malone, classically trained as a new-play development and production dramaturg, supervises a dramaturgy team of 10 students that analyze and research theatrical texts, including “The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet.” Visit https://sites.google.com/oswego.edu/blancohub/home to sample their work for the staged reading.
Dramaturgs also provide historical context about the time period during which the play was created, then deliver their research to the director and actors.
“It’s all about the detail under the script; there’s so much underneath. If you’re able to pull that information out, it gives you a better sense of what you’re performing and that helps the audience, too,” said Malone.
York said, “Dramaturgs are like the living Google for theatre.”
The prolific Shaw wrote more than 60 plays, among them “Arms and the Man,” “Pygmalion” and “Androcles and the Lion.”
Tickets for “The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet” are required for the free performance and can be obtained online at tickets.oswego.edu.
Parking for the performance is available in the employee lots behind and adjacent to Marano Campus Center.