MFA Acting Class of 2017 Presents L'Enfer, C'est Les Autres

March 10, 2016

The MFA Acting Class of 2017 is performingL'Enfer, C'est Les Autres, a series of scenes by the great French writers Molière, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet and Yasmina Reza, on March 10 and 12 at Schapiro Theatre. The production, directed by Professor Ulla Wolcz, is free and open to the public.

The production is geared toward further developing the students’ technical skills. “In my classes with Ulla as well as with our Linklater teacher, Andrea Haring, I was constantly getting the note to speak through to the end of my sentences, not to let the energy drop,” said Emily Murphy, who plays Ines Serrano in Sartre’s No Exit and Sonia in Reza’s Life x 3. “It was as if I would start out strongly and end up apologizing by the end of the line. By exploring this on a technical level and speaking through to the end, it started to affect my characters and myself on a psychological level.”  

The roles themselves posed a variety of challenges for the actors, as well. Adrienne Jackson, plays Green Eyes in Genet’s Deathwatch, described her character as “a macho-masculine criminal.” “I found harnessing male confidence extremely difficult,” she said. “It was only after my boyfriend helped me with my first and most difficult monologue that I understood fully what those words felt like in an actual male. That and the rhythm and lyrical nature of the writing can be very difficult to get right.”

Adrienne Paquin, who plays Sonya in Life x 3, said that “working on the comedy was a challenge,” particularly “finding just the right balance in timing and delivery.” In taking on a much different character in a scene fromDeathwatch—that of the sociopathic serial killer Lefranc—she found that playing a "type" was not as helpful as playing the situation. “Now I think I have found a good balance between character-type and character-action,” she said. “Attempting to realistically play a man has also been a great challenge.”

Paquin isn’t the only actor having to balance two very different characters—the variety of plays and roles in the production are immensely diverse. “Each process has been pretty different,” said Mike Walsh, who plays the Valet inNo Exit and Hubert in the second part of Life x 3. “Life x 3 has been more about finding the love in the moments of extreme high stress and finding the comedy instead of the bitterness of the scene.” He was surprised by how much creativity Reza’s writing allows for. “This material leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and it's really fun to live within a loose structure.”

Despite the diversity of the playwrights, some connections can certainly be drawn among the different generations of French writers. “I was surprised by this satirical, existential line that you can draw from Reza, back through Camus and Sartre, and all the way to Moliere,” said Max Sterling, who is playing Oronte in the Misanthrope and Henri inLife x 3.

The actors also learned that bringing laughs is not always as fun as it looks. “I think the most challenging thing has been working on comedy all semester,” Walsh said. “It's a really fine line between comedy and drama, but I think comedy is harder: It's more specific, more demanding, and much more high stakes.”