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Student-produced play "Oleanna" to explore the subjectivity of the truth

  • Kevin McCasland (left) as John and Christa Wright (right) as Carol in "Oleanna."

Posted on February 15, 2018

A curious and questionable interaction between two fictional characters, a college professor and a student, during the professor's office hours, leads to a difference of opinion about what actually took place in that office.

This plot sets the stage for the upcoming performances of "Oleanna," which will take place February 22-24, at 7:30 p.m., and February 25, at 2 p.m. All performances will take place in the Linn Maxwell Keller Black Box Theatre, located in the Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts.

Jacob Molli, a senior majoring in psychology who is serving as the student director for the production, said that if the above plot description seems vague, that's the point.

"The show is best experienced without reading a plot summary and coming in with strong opinions," said Molli, who is from the Chicagoland area. "I would say this show is a lot like a thriller — it is all about subtlety and allowing yourself to be surprised by what you see. There are no definitive answers to this play and the only truth is your own."

Molli said he chose "Oleanna" for the theater program's annual Performance Studio Series because the play is more relevant today than when it was produced in 1992.

"It explores complex, multifaceted issues without ever spoon feeding the audience and telling them what to think about those issues," he said.

Some of those issues explored in "Oleanna" include sexual harassment, censorship, the subjectivity of the truth, identity shaping interactions and how people deal with power. 

The P.S. Series gives upper-level theater students the opportunity to use the practical skills they have learned in the classroom. During P.S. Series productions, students have creative control over directing, acting, backstage production, set design and costume design. 

"I think students having creative control over the production is an incredible experience that you won't find anywhere else," said Molli. "It really gives students a taste for what's on the other side of graduation for those of us who will pursue jobs in the theater."

Tickets can be purchased for $6 through the Louis Armstrong Theatre Box Office in-person Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. or by calling (616) 331-2300. Tickets are also available at the 2020 Desk in the Kirkhof Center or at

"Oleanna" contains sexually and politically provocative content. Viewer discretion is advised.

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