At a rehearsal fewer than 10 days before opening night of Christopher Shinn’s Dying City, Charlotte Herzog ’17 and Amy Sheahan ’17 were discussing the “quality of breath” Herzog’s character should be taking upon hearing a doorbell ring.
This attention to detail was common throughout the rehearsal process for Herzog, Sheahan and Chris Stevens’ ’17 senior thesis production. According to Sheahan, the director, the group spent a lot of time perfecting the finer details of the characters. Tonight in The Hill Theater at 8pm, Sheahan, Herzog and Stevens will premiere their senior thesis and put forth the cultivation of their hard work and meticulous attention to detail.
Dying City tells the story of Herzog’s Kelly, a therapist coming to terms with the recent death of her husband, a soldier who died fighting in Iraq. She must also deal with her brother-in-law Peter, a gay actor mourning the death of his brother who is played by Stevens.
The plot is complex as it moves through different timelines and brings Kelly and Peter’s individual struggles into the much larger context of post-9/11 New York City and America at war in Iraq.
Dying City speaks to themes of individual loss and grief as well as a public sense of nationalism and the need for exclusion; and, according to Sheahan, this emotionally complicated play still holds relevance today.
“A huge aspect of the play is the political aspect of it,” Sheahan said. “There are a lot of similarities between the way things were then and the way things are now. I mean, listening to Trump’s inauguration speech, it’s a lot about excluding people … and being scared of other people.”
Each senior has their own reasons for feeling passionate about the play. For Herzog, it is her memories of growing up in New York City after 9/11. Stevens cited the fact that, like his character, he has a twin. Sheahan’s own personal experiences with grief inspired her to take on the project. Because they all felt so close to the subject matter, according to Herzog, a lot of passion went into the performance.
“We all read it and sort of just said, ‘Yeah. This is the one,’” Herzog said. “We all had different reasons, but we knew this play had to be it.”
Despite the difficiculties posed by having Thanksgiving and winter breaks in the midst of the five-week rehearsal process, Stevens said the group remains confident in the play and in the emotional performances they have worked together to create and perfect.
“The break allowed us more time with the text to consider the characters,” Stevens said. “On the other hand, we never had the luxury of having a constant rhythm. It was clear that it wasn’t as fluid as where we left off. But we made it work and brought it back together.”
Those who cannot make tonight’s performance of Dying City at 8:00 p.m. have the chance to see it on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. in The Hill Theater. Tickets are $2 and can be reserved at the Bolton Box Office.