Nonviolent Values and Humor Combined in “Arms and the Man”

Love and war, adventure and hardship, humor and humanity, conflict and idealism: these are all themes combined in EMU’s current theater production, “Arms and the Man.”

This play, written in 1898 by George Bernard Shaw, is set in 1885 in Bulgaria during the Serbo-Bulgarian War.

The storyline follows Raina, a Bulgarian woman engaged to Sergius, a war hero.

Raina, played by First-Year Makayla Baker, makes the sudden acquaintance of Captain Bluntschli of the Serbian army when he unexpectedly enters her home through her bedroom window one night.

As the story unfolds, it ex- plores questions of true love, war, and identity, with plenty of laughter mixed in along the way.

The show opened March 22 in EMU’s Mainstage Theater, showing three times that weekend. The show is guest directed by Andrea Andresakis, a native New Yorker with extensive acting and directing experience both in the U.S. and abroad. “Working with a professional director was a really great opportunity,” said Sophomore theater and liberal arts major Hattie Berg, who plays the character Louka. “It was a good eye-opener to the real world and an awesome chance to grow immensely as an actor.”

Andresakis challenged the actors to prepare well for their roles, assigning essays about each of the characters prior to beginning rehearsals. “Every director has a different style, and working with Andrea gave everyone in the cast another way to look at theater,” said Gabe Brunk (‘12), who plays Sergius.

Sophomore music and theater major Erica Maholmes is the assistant director for the show. “As assistant director, I’ve done a little bit of everything,” said Maholmes. “It’s great seeing all the work that the behind the scenes crew puts into the show that you rarely see as an actor.”

“Arms and the Man” incorporates many kinds of humor in a blend of irony, plot twists, and comical events.

Junior environmental sustainability major Eric King, who plays Bluntschili, explained, “My favorite aspect of this show is the comedic situational irony that characterizes the story, [because] some of the characters have all the pices of the ‘plot puzzle’ while others are very native to truth of what’s really going on.”

The actors have clearly gained skill and learned from the experience of performing in the show.

In addition to the overall task of creating a cohesive and compelling performance, each character presents a unique challenge and opportunity for growth.

“Louka made me come out of my shell,” said Berg. “She is so comfortable with herself, and she has no problem showing that…[and] she made me comfortable with my body and who I am, with the directors’ help.”

“Sergius has a very idealized view of the world at the beginning of the play, and his character development revolves around finding out that the world isn’t as innocent a place as he once thought,” said Brunk. “His questioning and coming to terms with that fact has made him a very dynamic character to portray.”

About the more challenging aspects of character portrayal, King said, “The biggest challenge for me has been finding the relationship between my character’s identity as a 14-year professional soldier and the anti-war commentary of the play.”

“Arms and the Man” combines the values of nonviolent conflict resolution with an exploration of human identity in a memorable and humorous performance. The last showings of “Arms and the Man” are April 5 and  6 in the Mainstage Theater.

Meg Smeltzer,
Contributing Writer

Categories: Feature

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