Published December 3, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor
Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia is an intriguing and complex drama about the influences of science, nature, truth, time, and sex on our lives. The play is set in two time periods and centers on a grand English estate. In 1809, a young girl and her tutor are delving into deep issues, of the romantic and intellectual variety. In present day, two scholars seek to unlock the mysteries of the house and the secrets of those who lived there. Oklahoma City University’s production of Arcadia promises to be mysterious, deeply intricate and provocative. The School of Theatre presents Arcadia at The Burg Theatre on OCU’s campus.
OCU Junior Zachary Prall stars in Arcadia, and he answered an in-depth Q&A about the show and his role as Septimus Hodge. His exclusive Q&A is below!
AP: Tell us about Arcadia! Who do you play? What are you most excited for audiences to see?
Zachary Prall: I play Septimus Hodge in Arcadia! I absolutely love this play and this character! This is hands down the hardest role I have ever had the privilege of playing and I have grown so much since we started this wonderful process. Arcadia is an incredibly intellectual play written by Tom Stoppard and is set in two different time-periods. The time-period in which I get to play (the 1800’s) revolves around a very intelligent young girl named Thomasina Coverly and how she is thinking and feeling her way through the world around her. She is faced with not only mathematic and scientific challenges within her studies but also with the challenges of the physical world: the relationships between people and the emotions and passion that goes along with that.
I play her tutor, who is charged with guiding this young genius in her studies and sometimes indulging in her curiosities that don’t exactly line up with the educational atmosphere. I am so excited for audiences to see the wonderful connections that happen when the physical and the intellectual worlds combine and waltz together in a way like no other. Everyone in this show is absolutely stunning and they give a performance that is so stimulating and so natural that it takes my breath away every time, and I am most excited for audiences to see the wonderful work my cast mates are doing!
AP: Arcadia bounces back and forth between the 1800s and present day. It even blurs the lines between past and present. How has that been a challenging, and exciting, aspect to this play?
ZP: When starting this process, I had no idea how we were going to pull off the connection of the two different periods. I have to be honest; I was intimidated when I first read the play. Over the process though, this blur between the two worlds has become my favorite part of the show. One aspect of the show that helps connect the eras is the math and science of the play. Math and science help connect us to those who discovered amazing things in the past and those who find new discoveries in the future.
Although this is true, periods are not just connected through scholastic means. One theme that is preached throughout the show is the fact that times may change, clothes may change, titles may change, but the relationships formed between people and the overall beauty of the human experience is timeless. People will always feel deep emotions and will always be driven by personal wants and needs, whether we are wearing coats and tails or not.
AP: Arcadia is both art and a science lesson. What do you think is most interesting about that unique quality?
ZP: I think what is most interesting about that is that science and art are incredibly intertwined. The beauty of science is the art that it creates with calculations and predictive measurements. Art is found all throughout science and is really what is fascinating about it. We can use science to figure out why something looks the way it does and why, for some seemingly absurd reason, it is perfect in the eye of the beholder. We can also use science to see the ugly and the destruction of the world. That fact in and of itself is beautiful. The fact that we can use science to understand beauty or apparent perfection and also destroy it too is art. I don’t think, especially in the context of this play, art and science are all that different.
AP: Yet another complexity is that the play is both a tragedy and a comedy. Do you think it’s more of one or the other?
ZP: I honestly don’t believe this play is strictly either, or even just a mix of the two. This play holds up a mirror to the human condition and demands that people see that life, science, sex, love, and even calculus all fit within the same vein of our lives. We can describe life with science facts but we can also describe life with our hearts and our emotions and that is truly what is beautiful about this play. That, although we think our brains and our hearts act independently, all of our livelihood is living under the same roof and they all work together to shape our experiences. Yes, this play is funny, and yes this play has tragic elements, but you are really missing out if you try to shove this wonderful piece of art into a singular box.
My advice to audience members is to let the show reflect some of the humanity they see in themselves and others onto them and let it change the way they view certain of aspects of life. This show is meant to get you thinking and makes you create your own personal interrogation of your life and the life of others around you. This play is way more than just a tragedy or a comedy.
Arcadia also stars Olivia Laskin as Thomasina, Mary Taylor Hesterberg as Hannah, Duke Bartholomae as Valentine, Maxwell McIntire as Bernard, and Owen Whitham as Chater. Carolann Stout is Lady Croom, Sydnee Lasseigne is Chloe, John Metcalf is Noakes, Isaac Sorell is Brice, Casey Kassal is Jellaby, and Bret Williams is Gus.