Arcadia: “ ‘History Detectives’ meets ‘Downton Abbey’ ”

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jennifer Hubbard describes Tom Stoppard’s play “Arcadia” as “‘History Detectives’ meets ‘Downton Abbey.’”
“That is about as simple and relevant as I can make it,” the managing director for St. Thomas Players said.
St. Thomas Players will premiere the play at 7:30 p.m. this evening at the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre on the campus of Catawba College.
Director David Pulliam calls the show a “tale of two times” because of its format, which includes interwoven, alternating scenes set in the same house, in the same room, during two different time periods — the 19th century and present day.
“It’s the juxtaposition of two things,” he said. “The idea that we can get glimpses of the past, but never really understand what has happened in the past, but also what the people felt like, what their emotions were and why they did what they did.
“We can make guesses, but we can never fully understand; that’s kind of the argument that Stoppard is making in a very, very funny way.”
Pulliam said those who attend the show can expect to enjoy a “delightful evening.”
“It will be great entertainment because of the juxtaposition of dissimilar ideas and situational comedy and wit all blended together,” he said.
The play is similar in that way to the movie “Shakespeare in Love,” which is also written by Stoppard, Pulliam said.
“It’s got that blend of literal and comedy,” he said.
But the play won’t just work the funny bone, it will tug on the heart and stimulate the brain.
“[The audience] will have some wonderful thoughts about how we perceive history and how what we think of history may be different from people who lived in it,” Pulliam said.
Pulliam said the storyline brings out the humility of the characters.
“The fact that human beings are human beings, no matter what time they lived in,” he said. “This play drives that home.”
Pulliam said although there are some “fascinating ideas that percolate throughout the play,” it’s important to know that nobody gets them all the first time.
“Don’t be intimidated by the play at all,” he said. “There’s a lot in it, yes, but it’s very easy to enjoy.”
Hubbard said when she saw “Arcadia” for the first time 16 years ago, she knew she had witnessed something profound.
“I also knew that I had grasped only about half of it,” she said. “There are many lenses through which to view this play, but as a teacher of literature, I was, after I first saw “Arcadia,” most interested in how we interpret the past through the written word — reading what people wrote about themselves or other people.”
Hubbard said she continues to feel that way now as an actress playing Hannah Jarvis.
“Anyone who has kept a journal or read others’ diaries knows that humans aren’t always faithful to reality, often because the heart overrules the head,” she said. “I think of all the private letters burned by relatives, or thrown in the trash by accident, or rained on, or lost to the wind.
“By bringing to life modern-day scholars and the period they’re researching, “Arcadia” examines how we piece together the past with what’s left of it—and how we get it wrong as often as we get it right.”

Note: Audience members are asked to arrive on time because they will enter through a stage door. Being prompt will avoid a disruption.

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.