‘Labyrinth’ director talks about concepts behind the play
The UT Department of Theatre and Film’s current production takes place in one of the least desirable places students can imagine: inside a park latrine.
“When I read ‘Labyrinth,’ I see a really disgusting bathroom,” said Edmund B. Lingan, assistant professor of theatre and the director of the production. “[The Labyrinth’s] a play about what happens when human beings are subjected to the rules of any kind of a system – political, religious, educational, whatever – in which maintaining control over human beings has become more important than serving the needs of human beings.”
“The Labyrinth” is second in this season’s theme of “Imprisonment” in the Department of Theatre and Film.
Written in 1961 by Fernando Arrabal under the title “Le labyrinthe,” the play follows the “Everyman” Etienne, who awakens in a park latrine and finds himself in a strange maze of blankets from which no one has ever found a way out.
Lingan said the protagonist is a “normal person trapped in an inhumane system.”
“In the ‘Labyrinth’ I see a world in which the needs of human beings are completely ignored and the legal formalities of the world in which the person lives dominates every aspect of the person’s life,” Lingan said. “That’s why there’s this giant labyrinth that will kill you if you try to go in it and why [Etienne] lives in these really squalid, horrible conditions: because his physical and his mental health are not a concern in this world.”
Etienne is played by Pat Miller, a senior majoring in film, in UT’s production. Heis at first chained to Bruno, played by Christopher Douglas, a sophomore majoring in psychology with a minor in theater.
Bruno is described by Lingan as “practically a pile of mobilized, barely-moving flesh that just sort of accepts” the confines of the labyrinth.
“We can’t see his face. He’s kind of lost his humanity,” Lingan said. “He’s the opposite of Etienne, who is trying to fight the system and escape.”
The primary antagonist, Justin, set up the weird bureaucracy that Etienne is in, according to Lingan.
“He refuses to bend the rules to help anybody, but he pretends he will help you,” he said.
Etienne also interacts with Michaela, Justin’s daughter.
“She’s somebody who’s part of a system that is essentially inhumane, and she likes to think that she’s humane, but she’s actually promoting the system by being a part of it,” Lingan said. “She’s promoting the inhumaneness of the system.”
The “inhumane system” of the labyrinth inspired much of the set design.
“The director comes up with the visual concept of the piece,” Lingan said. “I give pictures that resemble what’s going on in my head to the designers, and the designers work off of that.”
The designer for “The Labyrinth” is Frankie Teuber, a senior majoring in theatre.
“The Labyrinth” also incorporates elements of video and film, put together by student designer Meg Sciarini, who worked on last year’s production of “Machinal” at UT.
“She’s a really creative video designer, and I liked her work,” Lingan said. “She has a good handle on the experimental and abstract, which I really liked about her. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with her.”
The text of the play is very abstract and experimental. Posters describe “The Labyrinth” as “Alice in Wonderland meets S&M,” which, Lingan explains, is the way Arrabal wrote it, describing the play as combining several opposing concepts: funny and horrifying, control and chaos, comedy and tragedy.
Lingan, who has read the play about 20 times, described “The Labyrinth” as one of his favorite plays and said he has wanted to direct it for 17 years.
“I choose to direct plays that I keep reading over and over, and that’s how I decide what to direct,” he said. “If I don’t feel compelled to read something more than once, I more than likely won’t direct it unless somebody just pays me to.”
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