BY CHANDLER GARLAND – STAFF WRITER
For this fall’s family weekend play, the DramaCentre selected an adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick written and directed by Centre alumnus Ian Frank. Frank graduated from Centre College in 2004 with a degree in Dramatic Arts and then went on to receive an M.F.A. in Directing from the Theatre School at DePaul University.
There, Frank began to work on his adaptation as part of a project within the graduate program.
“I wanted to go after the more of the adventure in the story with some sprinklings of the metaphysical and the philosophical,” Frank said.
He decided to come back to his alma mater as a way to experience teaching and reconnected with the drama department through his friend and former teacher, Professor of Dramatic Arts Matthew Hallock.
“Once I got my MFA I asked myself, ‘Do I want to teach someday, and how do I get into that?’ My connection with Matthew Hallock was really great for that,” Frank said. “We talked about it last season, but our schedules just didn’t line up.”
Frank’s adaptation is proving to be a great choice. He is popular with cast members, including senior Taylee Wells who plays the character of Ishmael.
“I love working with Ian,” she said. “He is so kind and patient with us which has to be a challenge for him in a room full of 15 balls of energy. He does a great job of communicating what he expects out of us. It’s also cool to see someone who was in our shoes a few years ago making a living in a field that we all love as well.”
For those who haven’t read Moby Dick, the story follows a young sailor, Ishmael (Wells) as he ventures out to sea with the crew of the Pequod and their captain, Ahab (played by Charles T. Hazelrigg Professor of Dramatic Arts Patrick Kagan-Moore).
The original novel upon which the production is based is what the literary world calls an encyclopedic novel, which means that . Moby Dick is just as much about whaling as it is about Ishmael. Its dense and complex nature lends it to be a hard novel totough read, but under all the terms and instructions of the whaling profession lays lies an adventure story of philosophy and the sea.
“There is no way you do an encyclopedic novel in a two hour play,” Frank said. “The nature of the book is such that you couldn’t make it into a play unless it was something like 15 hours long. The goal of this adaptation is to knock dust off expectations about what this book is: ultimately about a guy going on an adventure that changes his life forever.”
To aid Frank’s vision of simplifying the novel, this version of Moby Dick will be performed in the style of minimalism. The production will stray away from typical DramaCentre fare with the set, costumes and props done in very simple ways. In doing this, Frank hopes to “inspire people to read [the novel] or for people that tried to go back [to it].
“We’re stripping it back so the most exciting things come to the surface and the imagination fills in the rest,” he said.
Frank’s adaption promises to rely heavily on movement and action to help aid this excitement.
“I really love the physicality of this play. We run and jump, fight and so much more,” Wells said.
Moby Dick also marks Dr. Kagan-Moore’s first time acting in a big production in 15 years.
“This is the first time in about 25 years that I don’t have a kid in the Danville school system that I have to take to school and pick up everyday,” Dr. Kagan-Moore said. “I have a certain amount of flexibility and time that I wouldn’t have had before so when I was asked to play the role of Ahab I said, ‘Yes,’ and auditioned and was cast.”
So who will enjoy this swashbuckling production?
“It’s absolutely for college students in 2015,” Frank said. “It’s not for professors to come and stroke their beards and think about. It’s to get the students fired up about this whole world of literature, and art, and philosophy that maybe they don’t feel like they have a way into, and we are going to Mad Max our way into it.”
Wells shares Frank’s enthusiasm for the production, opening Sept. 16.
“I’m super excited to see people’s reactions,” Wells said. “This is going to be unlike any play they’ve seen at Centre, and I really think people are going to feel like they’re on Pequod with us!”
Moby Dick will run Sept. 16-19 beginning at 8 p.m. each night in Weisiger Theatre.