In a departure from last semester’s serious themes, the ACU Theater Department is presenting the ironically named ‘Is He Dead?’ by Mark Twain for the winter comedy.
Kari Hatfield, associate professor of theater and director for ‘Is He Dead?’, said the play was a good fit for this particular season.
“We’ve had a great season, but a lot of heavier material, so we wanted something that was very light-hearted,” she said. “It’s also a play not a lot of people have heard of, which is a bonus.”
Jonathan Steffins, freshman musical theater major from Tulsa, said the play stands out this season.
“It’s the only comedy this season,” he said. “I think it’ll be a breath of fresh air for both the actors and the audience.”
Jacob Alexander, junior acting major from Amarillo, said he liked the contrast of content between semesters.
“It’s easy for a theater to get bogged down in a lot of dark material,” he said. “But one of the great things about theater is that while it can be a place of learning and communication of new, harsh ideas, it’s also a place of great enjoyment – a time for people to come in and forget their troubles for a few hours and just have some fun with us.”
Lauren Fertig, sophomore acting major from Mission, said that she thinks the goal of theater is to portray life truthfully.
“Life isn’t all about our struggles,” she added. “It’s about our follies, and the hilarity of our follies.”
‘Is He Dead?’ follows Jean-Francois Millet, a non-fictional realist painter in the nineteenth century, in a fictional account of his struggle for success. Millet, portrayed by Alexander, decides to increase the popularity of his paintings by faking his death and returning in the guise of his widowed sister.
Alexander has played women on stage once before in ‘The 39 Steps’ featured in the Fall 2012.
“This is a little different, though, because this is eighteenth-century Paris, which requires corsets, high heels, and hoops skirts,” he said, laughing. “All of which I’ve never tried before.”
Alexander’s Millet isn’t the only character pretending to be someone else; Fertig’s character, Cecile Leroux, impersonates a man at one point during the play.
“I’ve played a man, but I’ve never played a woman playing a man, so that’s a unique challenge,” Fertig said. “I’m very excited for my mustache.”
Five separate characters are portrayed by Steffins throughout the play, each with a unique accent.
“A fast-paced farce is one of the most fun things to do,” Steffins said. “It’s a lot to keep up with, but it’s so energetic and such a joy to be a part of.”
Unlike previous productions this season, the theater department is recommending ‘Is He Dead?’ for the entire family.
“It’s a satire written in the nineteenth century, so it’s very family friendly,” Hatfield said. “It’s going to be very fun and very colorful.”
The production premiers Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Fulks Theater. Tickets are available at the box office weekdays from 1 – 5 p.m. or online at acu.edu/theatre.