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Acting through a multitude of topics

BY SARAH LARSON | FEBRUARY 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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Can we ever be free of fate?

Joe Luis Cedillo asks this question in his new play, Dry. The piece covers a variety of topics ranging from Hiroshima and the Enola Gay to Greek mythology and family dysfunction.

Dry will début at 8 p.m. today in the Theater Building’s Theater B. Admission is free for UI students with IDs, $5 for all others.

“It essentially is something that lives in a very visceral way,” Cedillo said. “It essentially is going to make you feel something.”

The director described the 85-minute show as the retelling of a Greek myth dealing with such themes as fate versus free will and whether people will inevitably turn out like their parents.

The script took two weeks to write, and Cedillo wrote it in a special topics class. He deleted half of the script after the first rehearsal and has since added a third act.

The experimental nature of constant rewrites in the production presented a challenge for the actors, who were still memorizing their lines only a week until opening night.

Even though new plays may present challenges for cast members, many actors said they enjoyed the experience, including UI junior Cassi Schiano. Before performing in Dry, the actor had experienced similar concept-driven productions. She said she loves new work.

“I’ve had a blast with it,” Schiano said. “For me, this is the kind of theater I really enjoy doing, because it’s experimental but you learn a lot about yourself and the show.”

Dry’s many military scenes may be contributed to the seven years Cedillo served in the Marine Reserves. After his service, he went to school as a pre-law, pre-med student before becoming a graduate-student playwright. He said he didn’t like the way in which lawyers and doctors help people after something bad has happened — once they have a lawsuit or are sick.

“We [playwrights] might be able to effect change,” the Southern California native said. “We might be able to do something before the fact.”

The writer, a finalist for the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition, said he likes the energy and intense vibes that plays give to the audience.

“For me, at least, plays are the way I engage with the world,” he said. “I always have questions. For me, a play is a question. It asks a question that for the most part it’s probably not going to get an answer to. It’s an exploration.”

UI theater major and freshman cast member Joshua Ollendick said the actors work well together.

“It’s great to get to know the people and work off of them,” he said.

He liked being a part of an experimental play because of the fresh take offered, he said.

“It’s never been done before,” the actor said. “You get to make it your own. You do the research. You get to create your own character. It’s fun.”


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