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Playboy coming to Ga. Southern
Gary Dartt staging famous Irish play at the Black Box Theater
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Georgia Southern University professor Gary Dartt presides over a dress rehearsal of "The Playboy of the Western World" John Millington Synge. The play will be Dartt's last as a director for the university. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Unlike the reception for its original production in Ireland in 1907, the Georgia Southern theatre department’s production of John Millington Synge's "The Playboy of the Western World" should receive many more laughs and very little, if any, controversy.
    "There was a great deal of controversy when it was first produced," Gary Dartt, director of the production and professor at Georgia Southern, said. "There were riots that went on for weeks. Some people thought it defamed the people of Ireland, even though it was written by an Irishman."
    Performances of "The Playboy of the Western World" are scheduled for Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. For reservations, call 478-5379. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Dartt said that most productions cost around $3,000 to put together.
    “You can give us money if you want,” Dartt said. “We’re open to donations, but you can come see it free if you’d like to do so. You’re cordially invited.”
    And after 23 years at Georgia Southern, Dartt is retiring prior to the fall semester. So, “The Playboy” is Dartt’s last production as an active faculty member.
    Kenneth Wigley plays Christopher Mahon, the main character of the play. He describes his character as a naive individual who gains confidence throughout the play.
    “He’s a tramp who claims to have slain his abusive father in a fit of self defense and he’s walked pretty much across the length of Ireland and ended up in this small town. He’s the first person probably in 100 years to have done anything newsworthy, so he’s very interesting to the town.”
    As part of Dartt's rehearsal and performance class, students designed sets, serve as crew members and as performers. Dartt and his students have worked for almost three weeks, remembering lines, building sets and rehearsing.
    “It’s neat to work in a situation where you can work with students as equals,” Dartt said. “We have a student scene designer who designed the set and of course the actors and performers. I feel like I am a small part of this production actually next to all the work that has gone into it and the talent that we have here at Georgia Southern.”
    Wigley estimates that this is his ninth play at Georgia Southern. It is also his last and one that he calls a challenge to perform in.
    “It’s a challenging show because it’s not written in verse,” Wigley said. “It’s as close to being verse as you could be without being verse. The language is very elevated, very poetic and getting all of that into your head in a short amount of time has been challenging.”
    For actress Colleen Maddy, the challenge has been in not the way the words are written, but instead the way they are spoken.
    “The accent was the biggest challenge," Maddy said. "Speaking in Irish is much softer than how we talk today. It’s almost a lyrical kind of language to be speaking. They’re just musical people and they enjoy their language so much that they savor every word so you have to take the time and the patience to really linger on the words and taste them in order to get the full meaning out. ”
    Maddy portrays Pegeen Mike, the love interest of Mahon. She describes her character as a person who is not known for expressing her softer side.
    "It’s been a lot of fun playing her," Maddy said. "She beats everybody up and everyone’s afraid of her. It’s been kind of fun yelling and pushing everyone around.”
    Dartt said that by having the performance in the Black Box Theater, the setting is much more realistic for the audience. 
    “It’s great for intimate plays like this where you can feel like you’re right in the middle of Ireland in a rural pub and watch the action of this very, very funny play.”
    Maddy said that she hopes a large audience comes out for this summer show.
    “I’m really excited. I hope we get a great audience because it’s a great, funny play. It’s got wonderful comedic moment but it also has its soft, loving moments. It’s nice to have a mixture of the funny and tragic.”

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