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Dark Comedy Completes Theater Season

Cinders cast members the Deputy (Olivia Choate ’06, top left); the Director (Dash Renaud, Hampshire College); the Prince (Kelsey Siepser ’07, bottom left); and Cinderella (Callie Blake ’07)

A girls' reform school in Poland in the early 1980s provides the setting for a surprising black comedy to be performed on commencement weekend as the closing production of the theatre department season.

Cinders, directed by Alison Scher ’07, will be performed Thursday through Saturday, May 17 through 19, at 8:30 p.m. in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. The play was written by Polish playwright and novelist Janusz Glowacki and opened at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1981.

When Poland state officials learn that a girls’ reform school is planning to stage the classic fairytale Cinderella, a documentary film director is sent to the school to make a simple propaganda film about Poland and its fine state-run institutions. Unfortunately for the girls, the director has ulterior motives.

At the time the play was written, Poland’s political situation was unstable and grim. Nevertheless, Glowacki chose to frame his political commentary as a comedy because of that genre's power to expose guises and point out the pretense of subversive subject matter in a way that allows everyone to understand and enjoy it.

Scher’s addition to the play of original music, choreography, and a chorus further illustrates Glowacki’s dark, absurdist humor. “One of my favorite descriptions of the play was written by New York Times journalist John Simon: ‘Cinders is a cat and mouse game as comic as it is scary,’” said Scher.

Scher has always loved comedy, she says, especially of the dark and “inappropriate” variety. She began her comic career by joining Comedy Kids, a program for young adults interested in improvisation and comedy as an art form. She has made an extreme effort to instill comedy into all her work at Smith, and was a member of the college’s comedy improvisation troupe SIKOS.

Scher, who is also an actress, has appeared in numerous stage productions at Smith, including Lysistrata, This is a Play, Top Girls, Marya, and Six Characters in Search of an Author. Scher will enter the University of Southern California Film School in the fall.

Tickets for Cinders ($7 general, $5 students and seniors) are available by calling 413-585-ARTS (2787).

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