By Mary O’KEEFE
“The Shadow Box,” a play written by Michael Cristofer, will be performed at the Pasadena City College theatre beginning this weekend.
The play premiered 34 years ago at the Mark Taper Forum and earned a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. The theme is timeless as it looks into the lives of three people who are facing a terminal illness.
The play is a departure from the college drama department’s last few comedy productions but it is work that director Duke Stroud has wanted to do.
“One thing I have to look at is the number in the cast, since this is a teaching institute,” Stroud said.
He knew this play would be a change for his actors but thought the challenge would be a good exercise.
“The students needed a drama. It balances things out,” he said.
The play takes place during one day on a hospital campus and interweaves the three main characters and their families as they deal with their illnesses.
“The play follows the five stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance,” Stroud said.
He added that the subject, although difficult for some to deal with, is still something everyone will have to face, eventually.
Sabrina Walentynowicz portrays Felicity, an elderly terminally ill woman confined to a wheelchair.
Walentynowicz said the character was complicated but not as difficult as some of those she has played in the past.
“I think Mary Girard that I played in high school was still the most difficult role,” she said.
Walentynowicz had the lead role in, “The Insanity of Mary Girard” that was produced by the Crescenta Valley High School drama department.
She has performed in several plays at PCC and said there is a difference in how actors approach a character in college.
“Everybody – actors, the crew and directors – expect more of you,” she said.
She explained that to get into the role of Felicity, Stroud has directed her to find a gesture that will trigger an emotional tie to her character.
“My character’s [illness] comes from her stomach so that is where I concentrate my pain. I end up scrunching myself down and even changing my voice,” she said.
Stroud said the play will be difficult for some to watch, however, some audience members might feel comforted realizing they are not alone.
“Duke tells us all the time that we are not playing death, we are playing hope,” Walentynowicz said. “This play is about fighting for something, fighting for life.”
Performances are at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Oct. 9-10; at 8 p.m. on Oct. 15-16 and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Oct. 17. Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.