Last Friday, the Merrick Barn Theater curtain rose on Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a new full-length play by award-winning student playwright, Eric Kalman Levitz.
This marked a momentous occasion for the Johns Hopkins Theater Arts and Studies Program: the first time they have performed a student play on the main program.
This tragicomedy delighted the audience by immediately breaking the fourth wall and introducing them to a play about life - or really a life about a play.
It is easy to see that the Hopkins Theater Program is a very close community: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow was directed by John Astin - a Hopkins alumnus and professor most famous for his role in The Addams Family. It stars Mackenzie Astin who, like his father, is also an accomplished actor and former student at Homewood.
The students in the production encompass many departments of Hopkins, including Writing Seminars, International Studies, film and media studies, and natural sciences. The bios of all those involved in the program are humorous and enthusiastic; everyone seems excited about performing a play by one of their own.
Moreover, the theater was filled with students and community members who were all eager to watch an Eric Levitz original. No one was disappointed with this smart, quick and thoroughly entertaining show.
Levitz is a senior Writing Seminars major who has already been labeled of the best college playwrights in the nation. In 2008, his 10-minute play Without Parachutes won first prize at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. In Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, aside from quoting Macbeth, Levitz allows Ben (Mackenzie Astin), a playwright, to tell his stories.
Immediately, though, Ben claims that: "To have a life worth watching, you have to create it yourself." So he pulls Alex (Emily Daly, senior) out of the audience and the two begin a relationship and a story.
It is evident that their story serves as an allegory for the creative process of writing a play, and as such, clocks spin arbitrarily, giant purses hand Alex cigarettes, existential thoughts abound and Ben drinks a lot of Yoo-hoo.
When Alex leaves, Ben loses his direction - cue second act. As the curtains open, Ben returns as an older, grayer character, still struggling through his artistic endeavors. He meets Joanna (Erica Bauman, senior), Jack (Alex Neville, senior) and Cassandra (Emily Sucher, sophomore), all of whom create interesting roles for themselves. If the play sounds strange, random, and surreal, it is. As Ben says, "that's the way time is when your life is a play."
Although Levitz has wanted to be a writer since he was young, he first started writing plays in high school. For him, writing and putting on a play is a fulfilling endeavor. As he said, "Just having the experience of writing something and not having it just put into the drawer and being a lonely personal experience, but to create a project I could do with my friends and get an audience for it," has been a privilege.
A triple threat, Levitz writes, directs and acts, but not all three for every one of his plays. "I did three different plays in high school which I wrote, acted, and directed. When I was originally writing [Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow], I wrote it with the idea of playing the main character in mind to add another level of meta-weirdness to it." The metafictional aspects of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow certainly provide interesting food for thought.
Working with Professor Astin and his son Mackenzie has been a rewarding experience for Levitz. "It's been really affirming. John had actually been thinking about doing a previous play of mine that I ended up doing with Witness Theater called Projections. [The day] he e-mailed me in August and said he was going to pursue Projections for the theater was the day I finished the new play, so I said 'That's great, but this one's better. Can we do this one?'"
After he graduates, Levitz plans to go to graduate school, but his specific aims are still undecided. "I've sort of been planning to go into screenwriting since it's a more culturally relevant medium than plays. A fraction of one percent of Americans go to a theatrical production every year, so it's just a small group of people that you're reaching. It also happens to be an aging and disappearing group of people, unfortunately."
In Shakespeare's tragic play of the same name, Macbeth, who is devastated from the news of his wife's death, proclaims: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
In the same vein, Levitz has recreated this "poor player" and has attempted to analyze life's lost hour on the stage.
This weekend, the production of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow continues with two evening performances and a Sunday matinee. So, see it tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow).
The cost is $5 for students with a Hopkins ID, $13 for faculty, staff and seniors, and $15 for the general public. For further information email JHUT@jhu.edu or call (410) 516-5153.