WASHINGTON, PA (April 10, 2014) – When audiences walk into Washington & Jefferson (W&J) College’s Olin Fine Arts Center Theatre this weekend, they’ll walk straight into the set of “Another Rashomon.”
It’s a staging device Dan Shaw, the writer and director of the student production, hopes will bring audience members into the story and help them draw closer connections between themselves and the characters – characters Shaw described as “relatable, but unlikeable.”
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Shaw, Technical Director of Olin Fine Arts Center at W&J. “It really gets the audience closer to the stage. I’m hoping people will come and be entertained by this evening in the theatre. It will be an interesting evening.”
“Another Rashomon” runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 10-12, at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on April 12 at 2 p.m. The performances are free and open to the public.
The play is inspired by Ryunosuke Akutagowa’s short story “In a Grove,” which retells the same story four times, from four different perspectives. The basic narrative is about a samurai who dies after he and his wife meet a bandit in the woods. But each person retells the story in a different way, and each takes responsibility for the samurai’s death.
The fourth, objective, version of the story reveals the correct portions of each tale, as well as the truth about the characters of each person involved.
Shaw chose to frame his play differently from other classic retellings of “Rashomon” to make the story more relatable to college students and to bring the story’s themes of identity and perception to the forefront.
His play tells the tale of four college students tasked with giving a presentation about the story of “Rashomon.” The students have been told at the beginning of the project that one will receive an A+ grade, while another will receive a B, another a C, and another will fail.
Shaw is no stranger to the “Rashomon” tale. In 1998, he adapted and directed a variation of “Rashomon” for children, which was performed during an annual children’s festival at Olin Fine Arts Center. But “Another Rashomon” is not for children, he said.
“There is murder, there is deceit, there are sexual references, there is language,” Shaw said. “There’s some tough subject material, and difficult truths the students discover through the play. But through that, it’s done as a very dark comedy.”
“Rashomon” often is told in a very comedic, unrealistic way, Shaw said, and he hopes the student version will show more honesty. He thinks it will resonate the most with students, because it’s tuned in to their perceptions – but he had a word of warning for all audience members.
“Stick with this show to the end,” he said. “Because nothing is as it seems.”