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Friday January 28th

Rogue Players' 'Pelleas et Melisande' features immersive puppetry and effects

Featuring original music, puppetry and unique lighting effects, Rogue Players’ first show of the season, “Pelleas et Melisande,” is playing for one night only on Saturday for a limited number of people in a performer’s backyard — a Rogue Players staple.

The new independent theatre collaborative is funded fully by the students involved.

Rogue Players’ “Pelleas et Melisande” is an original adaptation of the 19th-century French play written by Maurice Maeterlinck. Maeterlinck’s version is about doomed love; Pelleas is in love with Melisande, but Melisande is married to Pelleas’ brother.

“A lot of the romantic tragedies of that era describe everything with these beautiful words,” said director Ben Elling, a senior political science major.

“We wanted to manifest that physically.”

The group looked at the script to see what and how they could show people without having to tell them. They decided on three methods: movement, puppetry and music.

“Everything onstage has a mask, a lot of the text is substituted with music. At face, it seems very un-human but that’s kind of the point,” said Andrew Jones, a senior journalism major and the assistant director. “It’s about making things less human to portray humanness.”

The student group used what they’ve learned in classes and general experience to add to the play.

During the summer, Elling studied avant-garde theater movement and learned about puppetry from Basil Twist, a renowned puppeteer from New York City, and he incorporated what he learned into this production.

“It’s about animating the inanimate, whether that be a physical puppet, like a marionette, that we’re all used to, or just an object, any object you choose,” he said.

Elling proposed the play because he said it lent itself to poetry and symbolism. Elling, Jones and Jeff Hymes, the music director and a senior chemistry major, worked together to sort out main aspects of the show.

Elling summarized each scene of the play and added notes on mood and visuals for the scene, and from there, the three musicians — Hymes, Corey Bax and Cameron Cook — combined their ideas to create the completely original music that will be playing throughout the show.

Hymes said he plays in multiple rock bands in the area, and that experience — mixed with his experience from Carolina Ukulele Ensemble — has helped him transition into Rogue Players.

“I’ve had a lot of experience sharing ideas and putting them together efficiently, but this is something I could really not have been prepared for,” Hymes said. “By doing this as students, we get to be really free-form and try out new methods. It’s just really fun being creative.”

Kim Sikkel, a junior geography major, plays Genevieve, the level-headed matriarch of the play. Sikkel said her challenge is to show Genevieve’s complexity despite the fact that she is removed from a lot of the show’s conflicts.

“I’m able to move about the space and move about the characters in a way that’s separate, but I think I kind of facilitate their interactions in a lot of the scenes,” Sikkel said.

She described the show as an immersive experience.

“It’s going to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” she said.

“I think a lot of people have these visions, and they try to put them together but it never really comes through, but we actually did it. That’s what I think makes the show.”

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The Daily Tar Heel for December 1, 2021

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