Manchester University
Oak Leaves

December 9, 2016

S of T Stage

'The Shape of Things' Stage in Wampler Auditorium

Students Star in Contemporary Love Story

Kelleen Cullison

At first glance, the fall play The Shape of Things is a classic Pygmalion romance: the ugly duckling transforms into a beautiful swan under the tutelage of another, and they fall in love and live happily ever after.

Except the ugly one perhaps isn’t who one might think, and the ending is most definitely not happy. The show places makeover culture under the microscope and into the hot seat with its well-timed (albeit often mature) wit and realism. The play pulls the carpet out from under the audience with its ending.

The production ran from Nov 18–20 in Wampler Auditorium. Written by Neil LaBute, playwright, filmmaker and one-time Fort Wayne resident, the play was directed by Kira Lace Hawkins, lecturer of Theater at Manchester. The gifted young cast of four all come from the Manchester Theatre Society, the highest placement for an actor at Manchester University.

The audience first met the two main characters of our contemporary love story in front of a statue of God, exhibited by the small Midwestern college. Evelyn, an art student, has plans to deface the statue in protest of certain censorship, while Adam, a poor English major just trying to make ends meet, spends the remainder of his night watch shift both discussing the nature of art and simultaneously trying to talk Evelyn out of it. 

As these things tend to go, the encounter leads to a date, and from then on, a whirlwind romance takes place. Over the course of a semester, Adam transforms from a nail-biting, frumpy jacket wearing pushover to a confident, more handsome version of himself. The greater his feelings for Evelyn grow, the more willing he is to push the boundaries of his comfort zone.
His transformation doesn’t go unnoticed by his old roommate, Philip, and his fiancée, Jenny, whose long-suppressed feelings for Adam begin to resurface. The three friends enter a tumultuous period, with Evelyn at the forefront of the building tension as her hush-hush senior art exhibit draws nearer.

Clayton Marcum’s portrayal of Adam brings life to the well-meaning “nerd,” and is beautifully contrasted by the passionate, multifaceted Evelyn, Adam’s modern-day “Eve,” played by fellow junior Kenzie Hare. They portrayed the tender moments with the same level of ease and confidence as they did the moments of combativeness. 

Stratton Smith did equally well as the cocky, hotheaded Philip, as did first-year Emily Lynn at portraying the position of sweet Jenny, who somehow finds herself in love with two, very different best friends.

The content of the play called for the actors to transition seamlessly from well-timed, (mature) humor to utter seriousness, both on and off the stage. “Stratton and I would be backstage, goofing off, and then, snap, be onstage and be sad or serious,” said Lynn. The only underclass woman in the cast, Lynn carries herself with an easy and humble self-assuredness. “They say (in theatre) you have to know your product, know yourself and what you’re good at,” she said. “You can’t compare yourself to another person or their experiences.”

The Manchester University Theatre Society annually performs plays both in the fall and the spring. Lynn’s advice for any potential auditionees is to “honestly, just want to try something different, and put yourself out there.” 

Students interested in joining can contact advisor Kira Lace Hawkins, and keep an eye out for acting opportunities on campus, such as those with the Theatre Society like the One Acts held on campus each year.