CSU, Chico to Stage Production of "Rashomon," April 3-8
Get ready for a twisting, emotional, roller coaster ride!
Chico State’s School of the Arts presents the brilliant play, “Rashomon,” a crime drama/mystery that explores truth and human weakness in feudal Japan.
“Rashomon,” directed by Cynthia Lammel, Department of Theatre faculty member, will have evening performances in the Wismer Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3-Saturday, April 7. Matinee shows will be staged on Saturday, April 7 & Sunday, April 8 at 2 p.m.
The play features a cast of talented Chico State students, some performing intricate swordfights, a stunning set design illuminated by an equally stunning lighting design, a sound design that will at times frighten and at others times deepen the emotional grasp of the play, and evocative costume designs, some that include beautiful, authentic, old kimono material.
The Theatre Department is using the 1959 Broadway adaptation of “Rashomon” for their production. This version makes use of two short stories -- “The Rashomon Gate” and “In a Grove” -- written by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa in the early twentieth century. Akutagawa based his stories on folktales from feudal Japan. The famous 1950 film, “Rashomon,” directed by Akira Kurasawa, was also based on these stories and won several awards including an Academy Award.
The plot of the play follows a local priest and woodcutter as they discuss the trial of a notorious bandit for rape and murder. Those who have information are brought before a magistrate to give evidence, but no final truth is discovered at court. Only after the court has finished, and the witnesses have left the magistrate, does the audience begin to uncover the mystery of what really happened in the grove.
“The plot behind this production will appeal to those interested in exploring the Japanese feudal system, samurai, cultural folktales, criminal justice, and psychology,” said Lammel.
Talented Chico State theatre students cast in the production have been featured in numerous other plays on campus and are looking forward to bringing “Rashomon” to life, noted Lammel. Three seniors -- Ryan Mutti, Pete McNelis and Daniel Beldi -- will be participating in their final Chico State production. They will be joined onstage with other equally talented CSU, Chico student actors, including Katie Morrill, Hugo Fowler and Erin Duffey.
“They are lovely actors,” said Lammel. “They are finding the excitement and truth of the play.”
Fowler, a sophomore performer, has been changing his lifestyle to mimic those of his character, a Buddhist priest. He has been meditating daily, eating healthy and will be shaving his head to fully embody his character, he said.
“The lights, the set design, the make-up, the wardrobe, everything in this show has been planned out very carefully and I think it's going to be stupendous,” said Fowler. “The professionalism and chemistry of this particular cast and crew will make this play shine through.”
A play featuring swordfights calls for professionals – that’s why Lammel brought in black belt Maxwell Pickens as swordfight choreographer. She said the students have worked on the sword fights longer than any other aspect of the production to ensure that the actors and the audiences stay safe.
“We are very grateful for Maxwell Pickens’ expertise, talent and discipline,” said Lammel. “Pickens, along with Ryan Mutti and Pete McNelis, are really stepping up to the challenges of the swordfights, and they are pretty spectacular!”
In addition to the thrilling swordfights and mysterious crime-filled plot, Lammel said the set design, costumes, and sound and lighting designs will be beautiful, theatrical, and extremely evocative. As the story unfolds these design elements help to “flesh-out” the characters, the action taking place on stage, and the emotions surrounding and illuminating this folktale.
The set includes a portion of the decaying, ancient Rashomon Gate of old Kyoto, a bamboo grove outside the city, and a magistrate’s office where the witnesses to the crimes give their versions of the truth.
The costumes will be extravagant and made from authentic, old kimono material. Costume designer, Ruth Palmerlee, Department of Theatre staff member, found the material and ordered several rolls of it from Japan. The actors wearing costumes made out of this material will be visually stimulating and lend an authenticity to that aspect of the production.
“The fabric is remarkable,” said Lammel. “We are so excited to see it on our actors and watch them create a truthfulness in style and movement given these resources.”
Palmerlee said the cast and crew has been putting a great deal of effort into the physical and emotional context of the story.
“There has been a creative team of designers working together during this process to generate a really effective production,” said Palmerlee. “I look forward to seeing all of the elements on stage.”
Lammel said she hopes each audience member has an exciting -- both visually and aurally -- evening/afternoon of theatre!
“In addition to a lively night/afternoon of sword fighting, beauty and mystery, we hope that we convince the audience that whether or not we as individuals are able to discern or determine exactly what external facts are involved in any situation at work or at home, that we ourselves must discover truths inside us that inspire us to go on doing our best and giving our best to the world, however flawed, in which we find ourselves.”
Sophomore performer Alexander Ritchey said the production will be amazing and that Lammel is doing a beautiful job fitting the puzzle pieces of the play together.
“A play with sword fighting action, coupled with an intense mystery, is going to take the audience on quite the emotional roller coaster ride,” said Ritchey.
Advance tickets, at $15 general, $13 senior citizens, and $6 students/children, are available at the University Box Office, 898-6333. Add $2 for tickets purchased at the door. For disability-related seating please call 898-4325.