Big Themes in a Small Town; Middletown Opens February 13th

By Stephanie Jorritsma

The University of Jamestown (UJ) Theatre Department is presenting Middletown by Will Eno February 13-15 at the Reiland Fine Arts Center. Middletown, directed by senior Amanda Arvay, illustrates life in a small town and highlights the little moments that connect life together.

Although the play is set in the familiar location of small town America, Middletown is filled with unexpected choices that engage and intrigue audiences. Words, actions, and scenes often take unexpected or seemingly unrelated turns that cause audiences to consider the show’s deeper meanings.

For actress Sam Goettsche, those odd moments are her favorite part of the show. She has come to see and appreciate the importance of various details within the story.

“[E]verything connects,” she says.“It’s crazy…there’s so many different stories but they’re all just connected, and I love it.”

While Middletown causes audiences to think deeply, the show also portrays real characters that audiences can connect with. The characters in Middletown are diverse and deal with a number of real-life struggles. Arvay says about the play, “it’s people playing real people instead of people playing […] a characterized version of what people should be.”

In Middletown, many characters hide their real selves from the world, while others struggle with relationship conflicts, anxiety, or childhood issues. The complex, varied characters bring an emotional depth to the show and make it relatable for many different audiences.

Along with its compelling story, Middletown is also unique because the show is fully student-produced. In addition to the student director, other students have taken charge of the set design, set building, lights, costumes, props, and stage managing. Arvay says that the student involvement has allowed her utilize the skills of many different students in bringing the play to life. Goettsche, who is helping with the show’s props, believes that the additional student involvement brings a different, unique perspective to the show.

Middletown also allows students to get hands-on experience in an area of theatre that they are passionate about. Riley Akervik, who is the set designer and lighting co-designer, has enjoyed his designing and watching his work take shape onstage. He says that the set and lighting design have taught him more about the production process and given him an opportunity to, “fully dissect this show and find the true beauty within.”

Middletown is the second show that Arvay has directed while in college. Last spring, she also directed the one-act play “Lessons in Weaving”, written by former UJ student Kenady Hansen. Arvay is majoring in Secondary English Education and Theatre, and has been involved in many UJ theatre productions. She has acted in nine shows at UJ, including the musical On the Town (2017) and The Winter’s Tale (2019). She has also written a one-act play and choreographed for the last two UJ musicals.

As a director, Arvay is enjoying working alongside other students to create a compelling, thought-provoking show. She is excited to share the unusual world of Middletown with others, and invites people to come enjoy the show and support the students who have worked together to make Middletown a reality.

Middletown performances will be February 13-15 at 7:30pm in DeNault auditorium.  Tickets can be purchased in advance at the UJ box office by emailing tickets@uj.edu, calling 701-252-3467 (ext. 5435), or by visiting the box office (open Mon-Fri 3-6pm in Reiland 135).  Tickets are also available at the door.  UJ students and staff are admitted at no cost.

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