L.A. Theatreworks brings The Graduate to Mason with a radio-style twist

Diane Adair (Mrs. Braddock), Tom Virtue (Mr. Braddock), Brian Tichnell (Benjamin Braddock) and Matthew Arkin (Mr. Robinson) with Darren Richardson at the sound effects table (photo courtesy of Matt Petit).
Diane Adair (Mrs. Braddock), Tom Virtue (Mr. Braddock), Brian Tichnell (Benjamin Braddock) and Matthew Arkin (Mr. Robinson) with Darren Richardson at the sound effects table (photo courtesy of Matt Petit).

L.A. Theatre Works presents “The Graduate” which reveals the other, darkly comedic side of college graduation at the Center for the Arts.  

 “The Graduate” was originally a novel that was adapted into the famous Dustin Hoffman movie in 1967. The novel was also adapted for the stage by Terry Johnson in the West End before coming to Broadway in 2002.

L.A. Theatre Works adapts the stage version of “The Graduate" into a “unique hybrid radio theater-style,” according to their recent press release. 

The producing director for L.A. Theatre Works, Susan Loewenberg, said “We thought this would be a wonderful comedy to take out on the road. It's the kind of thing where the title is well-known from the movie but it's one of those plays that's not overdone and hasn't been seen a million times. It's very close to the movie, but it's not exactly the movie.”

Matthew Arkin, who plays Mr. Robinson in the touring production said, “It's really a hybrid because this is sort of a lost art form in this country. L.A. Theatre Works is one of the only theaters doing old classics and contemporary classics and preserving them in this form. In the old days when all we had was radio, they often recorded in front of audiences.”

Loewenberg said, “When we tour around the country, we take a play we've already recorded and do it in the same manner that we do it in Los Angeles—where we record a play in front of the audience—but when we do it [in L.A.] it is certainly not as elaborate as when we do it on the road.”

The visual production value is greater for the shows L.A. Theatre Works tours with. “It's a highly theatrical version of what we do in Los Angeles. We can't be as free with the microphones and with everything else [in L.A.] because we're very concerned about getting a good recording,” Loewenberg said.

There are costumes, set pieces, and fixtures and the actors have no scripts like they typically do in the radio format. The only reminder that this is a radio play comes from the microphones which are situated in front of the audience, downstage, and from the sound effects the actors make throughout the play.

For the tour, rehearsals are slightly longer and more elaborate as well. Arkin said, “We rehearse initially the way we would rehearse a regular play. The actors will look at each other so we feel that connection in the scene and so we can figure out what the scene is about. But when the microphones are brought in, everything is done straight out. So if we are acting a scene where we're having an argument or a passionate lover's quarrel, we're both facing straight out. The audience is seeing us front on even though we're still arguing with each other. It's like the audience is watching it in split screen. It's a heightened reality.”

"The Graduate" is a comedy for an older audience, but Mason students should be able to feel a distinct connection between the play and their own lives.

“The idea of suddenly going over this precipice where you've been coddled and protected by your parents for twenty-two years, then quite suddenly they say 'Okay, off you go!' College is not the ticket that it once was. It's amazing; we've gotten to a point in our culture where [they say] 'Yes, you're going to get out of college—which everyone told you was the ticket—and now you're going to have to move back home because the best job you're going to find is Starbucks or working at Barnes and Noble,'” Arkin said.

This play casts a comedic but somewhat realistic light on how life will feel after graduation. Loewenberg said, “I think it will speak to students. It's when you're coming to the end of your four years in which you've been in a cocoon relative to what you're going to face when you get out. And when you come to the end of that I think it's an adjustment for people: you're try to get a job, go to graduate school, get an internship before graduate school, but you have to face the reality of 'Okay, I'm out there. I'm a grown up now. I have to make some really tough decisions.'”

“The Graduate," directed by Brian Kite will be performed in the CFA Concert Hall on Nov. 1, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. with a pre-performance discussion with members of the company. Free Student tickets are available at the Center For the Arts box office with a Mason ID.

Those who attend will also receive a code to get a free audio copy of "Pride and Prejudice," which was performed last year on Mason campus.

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