Colleges’ People Extol the Absurd – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Colleges’ People Extol the Absurd

A recent article in the Finger Lakes Times about the new Headless Sullivan Theater included HWS community members Doug Reilly, programming coordinator, Center for Global Education, his wife Gabi Mrvova, and Ingrid Keenan, who is the wife of Rob Carson, assistant professor of English.

“Looking for something new, something unique, perhaps even something absurd?” the article starts, then says the Headless Sullivan Theater might be “a good choice.”

Reilly, the producer for the group, and directors Mrvova and Keenan don’t take offense to that description; it’s actually what they were striving for when they decided to start alternative theater in Geneva.

“Before Ingrid came, we were talking about doing something with alternative theater here so people wouldn’t have to go to Ithaca, Rochester or Syracuse,” Mrvova is quoted. “Our thinking was why not here. We wished Geneva had a small, cool, funky little place to see off-beat, live plays. We decided to do it ourselves.”

She is both an actor and director so is performing in one of the group’s two plays and directing the other.

The group is currently renting space on Exchange St. and are putting on two plays, “The Lesson,”which Keenan is directing, and “Out to Sea,” directed by Mrvova, this coming weekend, April 30, May 1 and May 2.

The complete article, with more information about the productions and tickets, follows.


Finger Lakes Times
How bizarre
Absurdist theater debuts in Geneva

DAVID L. SHAW April 24, 2009

GENEVA – Looking for something new, something unique, perhaps even something absurd?

Then the Headless Sullivan Theater at 427-429 Exchange St. might be a good choice for this weekend.

For a mere $5, or $3 for senior citizens and students, you can see “Two Absurdities,” a show featuring two one-act plays: “The Lesson” by Eugene Ionesco and “Out to Sea” by Slawomir Mrozek.

The name of the theater group hints at where it is coming from. Members love absurd, off-beat, message-laden but funny little plays with minimalist sets in intimate settings.

“The name comes from seeing the name of General Sullivan on so many historical markers around the area,” said producer Doug Reilly. “We found out he was made to be heroic for burning Indian villages down. That is absurd in its own right, and to make it even more absurd, we added the name Headless, just to make it even more skewed.”

There were other reasons, too.

“It fit with our logo of a headless person – and it has a nice ring,” Reilly said, laughing.

Reilly said he’s no actor. His job is to make sure the lights are on, the set is in place, the curtains are on the windows and the many details of putting on a live show are done.

Gabi Mrvova, Reilly’s wife, is an actor – and a director. She has been pressed into a role in one of the two plays and will direct the other.

Reilly was in the Peace Corps in Slovakia when he met Mrvova. They came to Geneva when he got a job with Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and they love Geneva for its diversity, spirit, beauty, energy and potential.

Ingrid Keenan, originally from Toronto and now living here with her husband, Rob Carson, an HWS English professor, directs the other play.

“Before Ingrid came, we were talking about doing something with alternative theater here so people wouldn’t have to go to Ithaca, Rochester or Syracuse,” Mrvova said. “Our thinking was why not here. We wished Geneva had a small, cool, funky little place to see off-beat, live plays. We decided to do it ourselves.”

They want to get local people involved in auditioning and attending their productions “rather than staring at TV.”

But first they needed a site, and they wanted it to be downtown.

They got together with Robert Stivers, the Exchange Street building’s owner, after a retail store that was in that space closed, leaving the storefront available.

“It’s downtown, it has big windows and a street presence. It was the right size for us, and Bob is very supportive of letting us use it short term, only paying utilities,” Reilly said.

They began auditions and rehearsals in January after selecting the two plays.
Keenan said she chose “The Lesson” because she loves Ionesco’s work and absurd comedies that focus on the ironies and crazy things in life.

She doesn’t want to give away the plot, hoping people will come and find out for themselves. All she’ll say is that it’s about a professor and his relationship with a student.

Mrvova said “Out to Sea” is about three people of different political beliefs stranded on a raft. For more, come to the play, she urges.

There is some implied violence, so they recommend it be seen by people in their teens or older. There is room for about 35 people sitting in folding chairs around the sets.

“We are hoping people will come, enjoy live theater, have some laughs and leave happy. Then we feel we’ve done something good for the community,” Reilly said. “We want people to talk about what they’ve seen and want to come back.”

Cast members include Mrvova, Charles King, Nathan Cheesman, James Haswell, Jade Hernandez and Aimee Morris.

Show times are 8 p.m. tonight, 2 p.m. Saturday and again at 8 p.m. next weekend, April 30, May 1 and May 2.

Tickets can be purchased at Area Records, normal bread or at the door.