Two-actor drama explores friendship, rivalry, artistic conflict
Collected Stories, a two-character play about ambition, artistic conflicts, rivalries and the rise and fall of a friendship, comes to life at Bates in performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, in Black Box Theater, 305 College St.
Admission is open to the public at no cost. For more information please call 207-786-8294.
Donald Margulies’ drama uses the story of Ruth Steiner, a flash-in-the-pan writer in her declining years, and her rising protégé, Lisa Morrison, to examine issues of artistic integrity, as well as the realities of life as an artist, over a six-year span. Lisa begins as an insecure student, blossoms into a successful short-story writer and then writes a novel based on Ruth’s affair with real-world poet Delmore Schwartz.
Together, they struggle with the moral dilemma of whether the events of one person’s life are fair game for use in another person’s art.
The cast consists of Bates junior Elizabeth Danello of Washington, D.C., as Lisa and Mary Meserve, Bates College registrar, as Ruth. Katalin Vecsey, senior lecturer and vocal director for theater productions at Bates, is the director.
Meserve describes the play as “engaging and thought-provoking.” Both Lisa and Ruth are “professional writers, so their passion and commitment must come through strongly” in the actresses’ portrayals, she says. In playing Ruth, Meserve emphasizes the generation gap between her character and Lisa in order to fuel the tension of the play.
Danello says that the play “explores the boundaries of ambition within the borders of an evolving friendship. It’s an intense psychological exploration of a mentor-mentee relationship that calls for a realistic and multilayered performance.”
She hopes the audience will feel compassion for the two women, noting that “one of the central issues in the play is which character, if either, is in the right. At the end, will the audience sympathize with Lisa or Ruth?”
Danello, a double major in English and theater, has undertaken this role in fulfillment of an independent study in theater. She is a theatrical triple threat: actor, stage manager and director. She has acted in several mainstage productions at Bates, including Hotel Universe, The Learned Ladies and Bus Stop. Danello is also involved in Bates’ student-run theater organization, the Robinson Players.
In preparing to portray Lisa, Danello researched the play’s cultural references and time period as well as relationships between professors and students. Danello describes her character as realistic, with her anxiety and insecurity, but also manifesting a “vivacious sparkle.” Danello’s biggest challenge in her rehearsals has been representing the passage of time between the scenes as the action progresses through the years.
Meserve describes theater as a passion and says, “it is simply part of who I am and I can’t imagine not being involved either onstage or behind the scenes.” She got her start as a child in community and local productions around Portland, and worked as a young adult behind the scenes at Portland Stage Company for two years.
In the last 15 years, she has performed and directed at various theaters around southern Maine, such as Lyric Music Theater, Portland Players and Community Little Theater. Meserve also performed in the Bates production of A Lie of the Mind in 2008.