The Eastern Theatre is putting on a production entitled The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. It is a play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee written in 1971. Like other plays these authors have written, it uses a related incident in America’s history to comment on an issue relevant today, which in 1971 was the Vietnam War.
Lawrence and Lee used the story of Henry David Thoreau; in 1846 he spent a night in jail for not paying his taxes. His refusal was based on not supporting the war being waged against Mexico. Thoreau was a great American author and poet-philosopher. His protest against the United States government later became a popular essay called Civil Disobedience.
Although this play was written as a protest to the Vietnam War, one can see its relevance and similarities to the Vietnam and the current war in Iraq, in that none of them had full congressional support, and the public’s opinion of the government at the time of each was similar. This play is a timeless masterpiece that represents the fact that across time there has been similar anti-war movements and feelings of unrest toward our government in such trying times.
The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail is directed by Gene Engene. He originally came to Eastern in 1970 with an B.A. from Whitman College; and his masters of fine arts from Stanford University. In Kansas in 1971, he participated in this play.
Engene returned in the fall of 1973 and since then has directed over 100 productions. When asked if there was a favorite play or production he was involved with he said, “The one I am working on right now. There are many that stick out for one reason or another, but the one you’re currently involved with transcends everything else.”
When asked why he chose this play he said, “it leapt off the pages at me, I recently ordered the script and after the first four pages I knew this was it. It is really frontline to what is currently going on.”
When speaking with Engene he said that he was very pleased with the cast. He said, “In the last 10 to 15 years the actors at Eastern have been very committed and dependable compared to previous years. Although this is a small cast of only 15 actors, the talent and dedication is great.”
The main character, Henry David Thoreau, is played by senior Collin Johnson. Johnson has been involved in many productions at Eastern; most recently he played a supporting role in All My Sons. Engene cast a young actor from the youth theatre program at Eastern to play the part of Edward. The set director is Don McLaughlin and Jessica Rey is in charge of costumes.
The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail will be held at the theatre building on campus. Opening night is Friday Nov. 11. It will also be shown on the Nov. 12, and Nov. 15 through 19. The box office opens at 7 p.m. with the play starting at 7:30. Students and a guest get in free with ID, and general admission is $5.