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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 31, 1997)
‘Mind’ meditates on machismo
By Liza Holtmeier
The frozen haunches of a dead
deer lay on the stage.
The man who shot the deer
struts with pride around his kill, as
women gasp in horror nearby at the
unnecessary death. The deer is
skinned, but the meat is never eaten.
This scene, while common for
the families of zealous Nebraska
hunters, is actually from the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
theater department’s production of
Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind.”
Director Paul Steger says it is repre
sentative of what he calls the “pur
poseless pioneering spirit that still
exists in America.”
“Shepard talks about violence
and machismo,” Steger said. “He
says it’s silly to question whether or
not machismo should or should not
exist. It exists. The question is how
you choose to live with it.”
“A Lie of the Mind,” which
opens tonight, explores the chang
ing roles of American men and
women and the consequences of
breaking away front tradition. It
deals with the psychological and
physical savagery that exists in
many relationships by depicting
characters trapped in a cycle of con
The play revolves around two
families connected by the marriage
of one couple’s son to the other’s
daughter. The play begins with the
daughter, Beth, being tended to by
her parents after a savage beating
from her husband has left her brain
Her husband, Jake, sends his
brother, Frankie, to Montana to see
if she is dead or alive. Beth’s father,
mistaking Frankie for a poacher,
shoots him in the leg and takes him
prisoner. While Frankie begins to
fall in love with Beth in Montana,
Jake is nursed by his possessive
mother back in California.
“Shepard tends to be a rather
intense experience,” said cast mem
ber Robert Hurst. “At the beginning
of the play, (the characters) are
already at the end of their ropes.
They’re in such dire straits that they
don’t really have time to reflect on
things. They just do it.”
Steger said this lack of reflec
tion time contributed to the realness
of the characters.
“It’s the best acting exercise
there is,” Steger said. “It’s the clos
est thing to real human behavior
you can get. In life, you usually
don’t have time to think when
you’re responding to others.”
In order to help communicate
the play’s emotions and themes, the
production relies heavily on music.
“All music touches on things we
can’t put into words,” Hurst said.
“The music in this show touches
that indescribable thing the actors
can’t communicate alone.”
Steger described the music as
American and said it includes Tracy
Chapman, the Indigo Girls, the Red
Clay Ramblers - who were featured
in the original Broadway produc
tion - and Patsy Cline.
“It’s this happy-go-lucky music
that reinforces the idea that home is
a haven,” Steger said. “But in truth,
home can be even more twisted than
the outside world.”
While the show raises a number
of questions about relationships
and preconceived notions of home
and family, Steger said, Shepard did
not necessarily provide the answers.
“The show is shattering because
the fact is that we don’t have any
answers either,” Steger said.
Hurst added that the audience
should feel as if they have been
kicked around like the characters.
“What Shepard wants is a gut
experience, not a mind experience,”
“A Lie of the Mind” opens
tonight at 8 in the Studio Theatre.
Tickets for the performance are $5.
The show continues Saturday and
Nov. 4-8 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6 for
students, $9 for UNL faculty and
staff and senior citizens, and $10
for all others. Call (402) 472-2073
‘Secret Garden’ blossoms locally
By Liza Holtmeier
For VA months, Robin
McKercher worked on Broadway
helping to make “The Secret
Garden,” a Tony Award-winning pro
For the last two months, he has
worked as a director and set designer
to bring the same passion and glory to
the Lincoln Community Playhouse’s
production of the same musical.
This weekend, audiences will see
the results. “The Secret Garden”
opens Friday at the Lincoln
Community Playhouse, 2500 S. 56th
McKercher said his current work
was directly influenced by the time he
spent as a painter for the original
Broadway production. There, he
worked extensively with scenic
designer Heidi Landesman, who won
a Tony for her work.
“It’s one of those experiences that
you look back on and say, ‘Wow! I
can’t believe that I did that!”’
The Broadway production gar
nered two other Tony Awards besides
Landesman’s in 1991: Daisy Eagan,
who played Mary Lennox, won
Featured Actress in a Musical and
Marsha Norman, who wrote the book
and lyrics, won Best Book for a
The show was also up for Best
Musical against “Miss Saigon” (by
the creators of “Les Mis6rables”),
“Once On This Island,” and “Will
Doing it his way
McKercher said the biggest chal
lenge of working on the LCP produc
tion was facing the fear that it might
not live up to his expectations, ^ _
“I think the biggest challenge was
knowing that I could be disappointed
while trying to make my dream of the
show come alive,” McKercher said.
These fears were quickly calmed
after casting for the show began,
McKercher said. About 120 girls
auditioned only for the lead role of
The part went to Anna White, who
has appeared in seven previous LCP
“Daisy Eagan (who played the
part on Broadway) would have seri
ous competition with Anna,”
McKercher said. “She inspires the
whole company. From the minute the
curtain goes up to the minute it goes
down, she involves everyone.”
“Anna is very talented,” agreed
Jim McKain, who plays Archibald.
“She gives everything she has to the
cast and the audience.”
McKercher added that the LCP
production was stronger than the
Broadway production in many ways.
“There were some kinks that
never got worked out in the Broadway
show,” McKercher said. “The charac
ters were two-dimensional and the
inclusion of the dreamers made the
action seem disjointed.”
McKercher tried to improve these
areas for the LCP production. His
first step was to get die script from the
first touring company production of
the musical rather than the from the
He also tried to make the charac
ters more sympathetic.
“I want the audience to feel like
they are watching themselves,”
McKercher said. “These people are
full of sorrow, yet they have that spark
of life that can transform everything.”
Cast members said McKercher
invigorated them with his passion.
“He has so much enthusiasm,”
explained Danny Johnson, who plays
Fakir. “He helps the cast understand
and appreciate the complexity of this
No room for gloom
The musical is based on the novel
of the same name by Frances
Hodgson Burnett. It tells the story of
Mary Lennox, a recently orphaned
girl sent to live in her embittered
Uncle Archibald’s oppressive house |
on the Yorkshire moors. Still mourn
ing the death of his wife, Archibald |
wants nothing to do with Lennox and
leaves her in the servant’s care.
At first spoiled and unruly, Mary
begins to change when she experi
ences the joy of bringing her dead
aunt’s secret garden back to life.
Mary also makes friends with her f
young cousin, Colin, who is bedrid- |
den because he believes he is dying.
Through their experiences in the gar
den both children bring life back to
the gloomy estate as they find new
strength in themselves.
The story and the musical have
the same basic plot line and charac
ters. The musical, however, focuses
more on the relationships between
Archibald, his brother, Neville, his
wife, Lily, and the ghosts of those
who died of cholera in India.
“The Secret Garden” will run
Sunday, Nov. 6-9, 13-16 and 20-23.
Curtain times are 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m.
Nov. 2,16 and 23; and 7 p.m. Nov. 9.
Tickets are $23 for nonmember adults
on Thursdays and Sundays and $25
on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are
$9 for students. Call (402) 489-7529
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