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Feb. 27, 2009

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

Junior Don Watts (left) is Henry David Thoreau and Ames resident Ben Sulzberger plays Edward, Ralph Waldo Emerson's son who befriends Thoreau, in the ISU Theatre production of The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. Performances are the weekends of Feb. 27-March 1 and March 6-8 in Fisher Theater. Photo by Patrick Gouran.

ISU Theatre production illustrates timelessness of individual protest

by Erin Rosacker

A large cast, representing many academic disciplines, will complement the playbill for ISU Theatre's production of The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. The two-act play takes the Fisher Theater stage over a pair of weekends, beginning Feb. 27.

Playwrights Robert Lee and Jerome Lawrence take the audience on a dream-like sequence of vignettes that represent different points in the life of famed author Henry David Thoreau (junior Don Watts).

"The writers like to take ideas and philosophies of life and look at them," said Jane Cox, the play's director and chair of ISU Theatre. "This play shows a little about some of the relationships in [Thoreau's] life and how he follows what he believes is right."

Although set in the 1800s, the underlying themes are timeless. It is Thoreau's refusal to pay taxes -- which were levied to support the war against Mexico -- that lands him in a Concord, Mass., jail. It is no coincidence that his act of protest was the central point of this play, first published in the midst of the Vietnam War.

"I think the message is very timely today," Cox said. "It is a script that can speak in different ways to lots of people."

The scenes flit through time and place, and represent dramatizations of Thoreau's experiences. Meanwhile, the jail cell that a young Thoreau shares with his illiterate bunkmate Bailey (senior Kyle Foote) remains constant in a set divided into three parts. Some of his family and acquaintances depicted in the play include his mother (senior Jaime Wood), his brother (junior Colin Morgan), his love interest (senior Janae Hohbein) and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson (junior Jeff Mason).

Shows are Feb. 27-28, March 1 and March 6-8. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 ($12 for seniors, $7 for students), and available at the Stephens box office or through Ticketmaster.


The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

7:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 28, March 6,7

2 p.m. March 1, 8

Fisher Theater

Tickets: Stephens box office and Ticketmaster