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Directors take on Croatian humor: Gender-swaps included

Karla Rendon
Arts Editor

The Department of Theatre Arts premiered “A Gaggle of Gavrans” as the directing class’ midterm last Wednesday and Thursday at the Jane Dibbell Cabaret.

Forty people attended to see the two different 30 minute scenes. The first was “Chekhov Says Good-bye to Tolstoy” directed by Jake Tittl and the second was “Shakespeare and Elizabet” directed by Maryanne Householder and Cody Goss.

“Chekhov Says Good-bye to Tolstoy” had the audience laughing as it featured the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and his wife Sophia Tolstoy constantly bickering and even competing with each other. Their never-ending fighting put young writer Chekhov and his wife Olga, who were invited to spend the summer at the Tolstoy residence so Chekhov can write a book of conversations about Tolstoy, in the middle of their battles.

Aside from having debates with Sophia, Tolstoy also had many disagreements with Chekhov about his book of conversations and even criticized Chekhov when it came to their opposing views on marriage.

“I thought it really portrayed the conflicting ideas of an old, established writer versus a newer generation,” Andrew Gonzales, senior creative writing major, said. “When you compare old and new, you always get conflicting mindsets.”

Goss, senior theater arts major, not only directed half of “Shakespeare and Elizabeth,” but also played Tolstoy in the scene.

“I’ve read some things on Tolstoy so I kind of looked at some chapters of that and what really helped to get the sternness of his character was pictures of him online because he was a character to say the least,” Goss said.

After a 10-minute intermission and a hurried change of set, Tittl strolled on stage wearing a long, blue gown and a ruff hugging his neck, making the audience laugh.

Householder and Goss decided to make ‘Shakespeare and Elizabeth’ gender-swapped to experiment how to take that approach in the future.

The scene focused on William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth’s toxic relationship.

While initially Shakespeare wanted to woo the Queen, he soon regret it because of her clingy tendencies and her forbiddance of him returning to the theater.

Elizabeth’s insufferable love, Shakespeare broke up with her despite his friend, Jane’s, warning that he would be killed. Afraid of Jane’s warning coming true, Shakespeare wrote a love letter to Elizabeth, hoping she would spare his life.

Before Elizabeth knew of the letter, she ordered Count Welles to execute Shakespeare by dawn the next morning. Knowing Elizabeth would be upset and regret her execution upon Shakespeare, Welles did not kill him. The scene ended with Elizabeth hinting she may fall in love with Welles next.

“We always wanted to try out different gender swaps and see what the complications would be,” senior theater arts major Maryanne Householder said. “We wanted to find out for ourselves how difficult it is to have a gender swap and make it believable so that the audience forgets about genders.”

Karla Rendon can be reached at

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