Pete Gint’s amoral life, which features lunatics, devils and a razorback hog disguised as a woman, will unfold like a dream on IPFW’s stage today.
The production of Gint requires actors and audiences to take an introspective approach to the surreal drama that asks a very real question, and the answer will not be found on stage.
He’s not really a good person, but deep down inside, maybe he is, director Jeff Casazza says. The question the play asks is if any life is redeemable. No matter how bad someone is, is it possible to get redemption? It leaves the answer to the audience.
The story follows Gint over 80 years from 1917 to 1997; he begins as an aimless troublemaker in the Appalachian Mountains who is determined to become something great, grand and glorious. However, his ego causes him to be cheated and abandoned once he reaches the pinnacle of his success.
Using storytelling, Gint overlaps fantasy scenes with a stark reality; the cast and crew will use puppetry and original music to transport audiences between worlds.
I think what the puppets do is give a sense of dreamlike quality, Casazza says. We are able to accept this thing on a stick for what it is, especially if we use our imaginations. When we put that together, we have this real world that overlaps with all of these fantasy elements.
The story of Gint is a modern retelling of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 five-act play, Peer Gynt, that often is considered a challenge to stage. It broke all limitations of 19th-century drama, with scenes moving between fantasy and realism over a large span of time.
Ibsen, known as the father of prose drama, also wrote A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler and Ghosts.
Casazza says that for students who had a role in the intimate, contemporary staging of Our Town with actor Dan Butler in December, Gint offers something different and equally challenging.
Our Town’ is a much more realistic look at life, he says. So back to back, we have this realistic look at life, and then we have this fantastical look at life; both are valid, and they require a different type of acting. Now they have to go into a much bigger theater space and have a much larger life to live.
IPFW freshman Chance Parker, who will play the title role, says it has been the largest and most difficult role he has had thus far.
Gint is a very cocky character, and that’s a blast to play, Parker says. Even though he’s not committed to anything, he thinks he’s on top of the world – that’s his default.
When the illusion begins to shatter as the play goes on, he starts to falter a little bit, but he’s not the type that would ever admit it. You have to learn how to show weakness but not acknowledge it.
Parker says having original music produced by the show’s sound designer, Nick Lubs, helps set an atmosphere.
It really creates a mood. It helps me make decisions with my character that I wouldn’t have before, Parker says.
Casazza says it never fazed him to give the lead role to the freshman actor. He says Parker made strong choices with his character and fully committed to them during auditions.
It’s normal at IPFW for incoming students to grab these major roles, because all of our casting is open, Casazza says.
Some schools will have a casting policy that no freshmen will be on stage at all, and while I understand that for some schools, that’s not something I personally believe in, and that’s not something we believe in as a faculty.
If the person comes in for an audition and they grab the role, then they should play the role.
Parker says he would rather work through the jitters of having a lead role now than to wait until his sophomore or junior year.
I am learning and growing a lot as an artist. It’s been challenging, but I’m learning parts of acting that I have never been exposed to before. It’s daunting, but the end product is worth it, he says.
I believe the story could lead you in different directions – and that’s what good theater does. The ultimate goal is to get people thinking.