“DNA” Opens in Bartlett Theatre – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

“DNA” Opens in Bartlett Theatre

Life is riddled with fateful moments, the times when one comes to a fork in the road and must decide which path to follow. Under such circumstances, the ultimate decision can change one’s path forever.

When teenagers are faced with the outcome of their own critical decisions, grappling with the effects is no easier for them than anyone else.

Beginning Thursday, Feb. 21, audiences at the on-campus premiere of “DNA,” a play about teenage social pressures, will learn just how delicate the line between fun and excitement, and fear and turbulence, can truly be. Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Christopher Hatch, the play centers on 10 teenagers who commit a crime, subsequently revealing how they react and deal with the results in their own personal ways.

“I am not going to give away the plot. It’s too much fun to experience this story on stage without knowing the plot,” Hatch says. “I will say that the play deals with a group of 10 teenagers who commit a violent crime and then try to figure out how to get out of it. As we watch the group of 10, we see how violence affects each of them differently. It’s a fascinating study in how we, as a society, particularly our youth and young adults, are getting more and more numb to violence.”

Hatch, who joined the faculty of the Colleges in 2010 and has extensive experience on stage and in production, believes HWS students will be able to relate to the characters of “DNA,” as they are written about this generation.

“I was attracted to the play because I thought it was a good show for our students,” Hatch says. “This is a play about them. It’s about their generation. It’s about people they know. It’s important for students to see what theatre is being written about them, during their lifetime. This is that play.”

The young people depicted in “DNA” reflect the typical characters many teenagers may interact with while growing up: the shy girl (who really has a lot to say); the conniving bully seeking attention; the emotional friend whose honesty overcomes any lie; the jealous couple (and the flirt who causes this jealousy); and the studious girl who realizes her future is at stake after her involvement in the crime, among other on-stage characters.

When trouble prevails during the narrative, sides are chosen and friendships tested.

Originally commissioned in 2008 by The British National Theatre, “DNA” and its impact on young adults in England sparked the performance to become part of standard educational curriculums. U.K. students were expected to learn lessons from the play and use them in the context of current society.

Hatch says his fascination for the play was piqued about a year ago when he was helping a former student with her audition for a graduate acting program in London. She chose a monologue from “DNA,” and to help her prepare, Hatch became immersed in reading the script.  

“The student selected a monologue from this play so I wanted to read it in its entirety so I could fully help her with her piece,” he says. “It was fast, violent, and raw. It addressed so many of the issues in current society yet it did it in a way that didn’t beat the audience over the head with the social issues being addressed.” 

Devon Workman ’15, who is a theater major, says through an engaging presentation, the play illustrates how young people, for better or worse, confront the results of their own decisions.

“In this play, a group of high-schoolers show what could happen if one individual or group of friends becomes too numb to what’s going on in the world regarding violence,” says Devon Workman ’15, who is a theater major.

In rehearsing for the performance, Hatch says visualization exercises helped the “DNA” cast to experience the violent portrayals in “as vivid a manner as possible.” Practicing the acting exercises allows the actors to put themselves in the scene as if they were immersed in the crime, which they wouldn’t otherwise know.

“Many of the characters in this play are willing to do horrible things and the visualization exercises allow the students to start to realize just how horrible of an act they have committed and what their part in that horrible act was,” Hatch says.

In addition, the dedication of one’s self to acting as the character on stage also allows the audience to invest their imaginations in the critical events unfolding on stage during the play, Hatch says.

It can be hard for students to pretend to do “evil” things, Hatch says. It is the acting exercises that help them to see the extent of the actions they’ve “committed” during the storyline, which makes “DNA” a truly “fast, violent, and raw” play.

There will be three different showings of “DNA” presented at the Colleges: Thursday, Feb. 21, Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23; each taking place at 7:30 p.m. in Bartlett Theatre of Coxe Hall. “DNA” runs 70 minutes with no intermission.

After the show wraps up this semester, the next performance Hatch will tackle as director will be “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It’s scheduled to premiere during the fall 2013 semester. HWS auditions are open to all students, faculty, and staff.