Apr 25, 2019

Playing in a constant state of fear

Ryan Tubongbanua / The Collegian

The themes of the upcoming University Theatre production “Slaughter of the Innocents” express tension, fear, murder, anger and protest.

“Slaughter of the Innocents” was written by the Fresno author William Saroyan in 1958, and will be directed by Edward EmanuEl, a theater arts professor at Fresno State.

Play protests ‘Big Brother’

EmanuEl explained that the play was chosen so the University Theatre could be part of the centennial celebration of the birth of William Saroyan. Saroyan’s plays are often set in a bar, with drinking and smoking providing an escape for troubled people in the times of the Great Depression.

EmanuEl said that “Slaughter of the Innocents” was written as a reaction against the House of Un-American Activities and the Communist-chasing era of the 1940s and 1950s.

“It’s a very bizarre play,” EmanuEl said. “We did it to take the challenge.”

According to EmanuEl, some of the challenging elements of the play are when the play shifts from realism to expressionism, and later, to absurdism. Characters in the play are haunted by deaths which they did nothing to prevent.

Theme of looming responsibility

Characters in the play are in a constant state of fear. They can only hide from an oppressive government that executes people for what it calls ‘social irresponsibility.’

For Adam Schroeder, who acts as a strict government official in the play, the play is very political, with social messages as well.

“[Slaughter of the Innocents] is about what happens when a government goes astray and whose responsibility it is,” Schroeder said.

“A very bizarre play”

The play stars James Taylor as Archie Crookshank, the owner of a bar in a futuristic world. Archie and everyone around him live in fear of an irrational government. Archie is conflicted, he has a history that haunts him and his anger causes explosive outbursts.

The play also stars Ferin Petrelli as Rose, a desperate woman whose life has been unkind. Rose spends her time in Archie’s bar trying to escape the horrors of the world she lives in.

In the play, the government, described as The Republic, has suspended all civil rights, and makes people stand trial for irrational charges.

Archie’s bar is seized by the government and used as a court of justice. There is little hope that any defendant will escape with their lives.

With such a violent sounding name, you can be sure that there will be blood involved. But EmanuEl said the violence will take place offstage.

University Theatre

• The Slaughter of the Innocents opens October 3 at 8 p.m. in the John Wright Theatre in the Speech Arts building on campus.

• Tickets are $10 for Fresno State students and $17 for general admission.

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