IN TODAY's political climate, it’s easier than ever to see adults devolve quickly into children. That devolution often takes place within the security blanket that is social media – a place where simple differences of opinion trigger name-calling, intense arguments, and even the ending of friendships.
These issues have always been here, of course. Several years before Facebook put such arguments on display, a play called God Of Carnage examined them masterfully.
The show, which was adapted onto the big screen in 2011 as Carnage, is set to open at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus’ Jenkins Hall on October 4 – brought to the stage by Armstrong senior and director Olivia Quillman.
The school’s first student director in three years, Quillman’s production of God Of Carnage feels more timely than ever for both the college-aged and older demographics given the current political atmosphere.
Quillman, who is set to graduate next year and plans to head to New York to pursue her acting - and likely directorial - career, made a point to adapt the production wherever necessary to best reflect modern American society given the unique political climate of today.
We spoke to her ahead of opening night to learn more about the show and what brought her to the director’s chair.
For anyone who might not be familiar with the play, what is it about?
At its core, it’s a show about two parent couples coming together to figure out what they’re going to do about their two sons. One son knocks the other’s tooth out on the playground, and they come together to try and settle it as adults. Like most things when it matters to you, they kind of degrade into children themselves and stop acting like adults. You really see, especially to the culminating point in the show, that they really turn back into children. No matter how much you try and act like an adult, the real face always appears.
I vividly remember an incident as a child between two neighborhood parents that feels very similar to this play. It’s such a unique piece of writing in how it examines these things. What brought you to it?
Well, I’ve known that I wanted to direct for quite some time now. I’m the first student at Armstrong to direct in three years – part of that is because you have to take a directing course, but there also just hasn’t been an insane amount of passion from the student body to direct. So I felt like it was just time to do it.
When it came to choosing God Of Carnage, I saw the 2011 movie before I knew about it as a show. I just thought it was such an interesting concept. I was a child myself at the time, but I was just really inspired by it. There were a bunch of different shows I thought about doing. The first show I wanted to do was Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
It’s weird because that’s a pretty stark shift from God Of Carnage, but it’s still that idea of peeling back layers of people. I thought it might be a good idea to go with something a little more lighthearted [laughs]. Also, weirdly, I think it’s kind of timely to be doing a show like this. There are a few throws to political parties and stuff in the show, and considering the heated political climate right now, I think would be interesting to examine the devolution in people’s relationships.
People tend to devolve really quickly the second a disagreement comes up. Do you think it’s important to put a mirror up to people and maybe make them examine their behavior?
I definitely do. This show is slightly dated because it was written in the early ‘90s, so it was important that we brought things to today. If we’d left it set in the ‘90s, it would be really easy for people to see it and think that we’ve come really far. And in fact, I think if anything we’re worse than ever. It’s much more divisive nowadays.
There’s actually a line in the original text where one character talks derogatorily about Jane Fonda. I love that, but I thought it might be better to switch it up for today’s audience who might not understand fully who she is or what she’s done. So now the line refers to Rachel Maddow. I felt like it’d be a lot easier for people to say, “Oh, that’s something that’s going on now.” I definitely think that putting a mirror up to an audience is important any chance we get, because if we don’t see them then how can we fix them?
From your perspective, what were the challenges of presenting this play?
Not to give too much away, but just because of some things that happen in the play we did have to figure out the technicality of things. We needed to make sure that everyone could see what was going on in the limited space of a black box theater. I also focused on having the cast change their body language, and really try to come at this like they were in their 30s or edging towards their 40s.
We definitely had a lot of table work, versus just being up on our feet, and we did different techniques where we’d take scenes and act them as ridiculously as possible or as southern as possible. We’d play around just to try and find the sweet spots.
Do you think that a play like this is easier for younger people to relate to? Or do you feel like an older audience can come see this play and realize that maybe they’ve been guilty of similar behavior?
Well, originally the characters were written as being in the mid-to-late 40s, and I scaled it back to be mid-to-late 30s. I wanted everyone to relate, especially because people my age were going to see the show and they might have found some disconnect.
I also didn’t want to only pander to one specific audience because I wanted everyone to be able to see it, and more than anything to think. I would say that an older audience would definitely be able to see it and think, “Huh! Have I been responsible for arguments like this? Have I shown myself in a poor light?”
And ideally, that conversation getting started between younger and older audiences would be really amazing to see.