Directed by Writing Seminars professor David Yezzi, the play Schnauzer opens this Friday at Single Carrot Theatre. Yezzi has directed several shows in New York City and has a long history in theater. His latest production is an original, innovative one-act play that runs a little over an hour.
Schnauzer tells the story of a man who graduates from college and, despite his youthful aspirations and ambitions, concedes and ends up settling on working for his father. He feels constrained by his monotonous life and, as his desperation increases, his life spirals into turmoil. The man is only pulled back from the brink by his estranged wife and the fleeting memory of a girl he met at a party on graduation night.
The play was adapted from a poem that Yezzi published in his book Birds of the Air. The poem that inspired Schnauzer describes a boy who spends the night with a girl and, when he wakes up, he is handcuffed to the bed because she does not want him to leave. Although the boy is initially livid, he ends up connecting with her, and the memory of this girl stays with him after she releases him. Although the boy never speaks in the monologue, Schnauzer is based off this character.
Schnauzer combines several genres to create a tragic yet thoughtful production. Although there is a serious overtone, Yezzi describes some aspects of the play as comedic.
“It’s a kind of comedy I think in the way that Chekhov’s plays are comedies in that there are a lot of tragedies involved in them and yet we laugh at the characters in the play and the situations. It’s both deeply troubled and sad but in a comic vain,” Yezzi said.
One distinguishing aspect of Schnauzer is the way that it allows Hopkins students to connect with the larger theater and working community. The play’s production is comprised of actors and crew members who are Hopkins undergraduate students, graduate students and employees.
The college graduate is played by Austin Allen, a poet and recent Writing Seminars MFA graduate, while the college girl is played by Claire Aniela, an actress from Washington, D.C. The estranged wife is played by Julia Friedrich, who is a current Writing Seminars MFA student. Additionally, stage manager Sophie LaCava, assistant director Tim Freborg and crew members Sophia Selig and Kate Lynch are all seniors at Hopkins.
This play was produced by Mellon Foundation Arts Innovation Grants, which are designed to foster collaboration between Hopkins and outside institutions. Thus Schnauzer is working with Single Carrot Theatre.
“Working with the students is giving them a chance to jump into the middle of what is essentially a professional theatre production and gain first hand experience of mounting a fully staged play of a new script that is still in development,” Yezzi said.
Yezzi admits that Schnauzer can be a difficult play for audiences because it relies heavily on tone and imagery. The play does provide actors with a chance to dig into blank verse which is a niche that is presently missing from the Baltimore theater scene.
“This was a really ideal experience because of the support from Hopkins. The talent pool at Hopkins in the theater community was the perfect kind of resource to build the play on. Why this is, in a way, my best experience was that it is almost impossible now to do this sort of thing in New York City,” Yezzi said.
Yezzi also noted that in a city like New York, it has become far too expensive to produce a show like this and there is very little affordable and available space.
“I’m excited to see how, you know, the Hopkins theater community can take a new work, develop it and bring it into the professional theatre scene in Baltimore... to really take something, grow it at Hopkins and take it out into the professional theatre scene as a way to build relationships with the broader theater community in Baltimore,” Yezzi said.