By Lilian Schwendener
The theater program at Purchase College is delving into crucial themes and conversations about identity and gender exploration.
For some, the MJ Kaufman play “A Walrus in the Body of a Crocodile,” is a deeply personal experience within themselves. To others, this production marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for the theater industry post-pandemic.
Christina “Chris” Padro is one of the actors getting ready to perform opening night, Friday, Oct. 8.
“The show is really special,” she said. “I feel like it’s really good at opening up dialogues and creating conversations about gender and inclusivity. We’ve been able to have conversations that we wouldn’t normally be able to have.”
This production and its conversations have helped the castmates bond with each other.
Padro said, “It’s been really good and eye-opening, and it’s just been really fun!”
The message of this play has helped smooth the intimidating transition back into live theater.
Nicole “Nicki” Castillo, one of the show’s understudies, remarked on what it’s felt like rejoining the theater world after COVID-19 shutdowns. The play itself as well as the health and safety regulations have done much to put everyone working on the production at ease.
“The show itself is a very comforting experience,” Castillo said in regard to both the elements the play covers and the transition into theater post-pandemic.
The topics of this play have not only moved the actors but other people in the rehearsal process as well, including the production stage manager, Stephanie Rhodes.
Rhodes acts as the hub of communication for everyone working on the play. She’s the link between the production team and the cast.
“I oversee the majority of the production,” she said. “I’ve been in the rehearsal room from day one.”
As soon as Purchase students came back to campus in late August, the theater department started rehearsing for “A Walrus in the Body of a Crocodile.”
Rhodes found great meaning both in the professional and personal experiences she’s had since working on the play.
“It’s helped me discover things within myself, and it’s also helped me get outside perspectives,” she said. “I think the show, in the social climate we're in is definitely a show that everyone should see.”
Guest Director Sarah Hughes felt alienated at home during most of the pandemic. Her full-time work in New York City got shut down when the theater industry took a turn for the worse due to COVID-19. For the most part, Hughes did not do Zoom theater.
“I don’t love spending a lot of time looking at screens,” she said. “I missed live theater a lot.”
Hughes spent over a year not being able to do the things she loved most: collaborating with actors, directing, and creating live performances.
“When Purchase reached out about doing this with MJ Kaufman- a playwright I’ve worked with before- and they said that it was going to be in person,” Hughes said. “I said yes!”
“It has been so wonderful to be back in person,” she continued. “It’s been such an amazing first project back. My actors have been so excited, generous and hungry to do it.”
The play will run between Oct. 8 and Oct. 16, including a special performance featuring a conversation with the playwright MJ Kaufman on Oct. 14. To reserve a seat, visit the conservatory's "Performances" page.