“In the entanglement of death, lies, and love, ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ explores the effect of technology of the modern person and the importance of what truly knowing another human means.” –Stephanie Hettrick
On February 14th, 15th, and 16th, Reinhardt University’s theatre program performed Dead Man’s Cell Phone, written by Sarah Ruhl. They performed this show in the Hoke ‘O’ Kelly with six cast members. The director, Stephanie Hettrick, and stage manager, Lauren Friday, worked non-stop on blocking, building, and characterizing the show, as they only had three weeks to prepare.
In the play, the main character Jean, played by Allie Glonek, is first seen sitting in a café with only one man at another table. After having to answer his continuingly ringing phone, she realizes that the stranger, Gordon, played by Nick Cothran, has died. Connected to him only by his cell phone, she continues to answer his calls and console his loved ones. She then meets his mother, Mrs. Gotlieb, played by Sophie Decker, his wife, Hermia, played by Katelyn Pickel, his brother, Dwight, played by Conner Williams, and his mistress, The Other Woman, played by Kate Johnson. She becomes twisted up in not only his lies, but also in her own, as she tries to find a real connection between herself and others instead of a connection through Gordon’s cell phone.
Dead Man’s Cell Phone was chosen by Hettrick for many different reasons. As a student director, she was given the task to find a show that casted only 6 people in it. She chose the show because its values were similar to her own. She grew up in a family that believed in one on one connection over cellular relations. When she first stumbled upon the show at Shorter, she immediately connected with it because of her connection to the main character, Jean. “Jean’s,” Hettrick said, “only connection to Gordon was through a phone, and that’s exactly what she was raised to be against.”
Hettrick chose the stage set-up to better accommodate the actors and the audience . She first wanted the lighting to be as professional as possible. The lighting for the stage created bad shadowing, but on the floor was much easier to work with. Also, without the proper seating, it is usually painful for the viewer to sit and look up to the stage, when it is much more realistic to view and relate to the show if it is right in front of the viewer. They decided on putting the stage set-up in the left corner of the Hoke jokingly at first, but after testing this set-up, it turned out to be the best choice for not only the actors, but the audience as well.
Allie Glonek said, “The rehearsals were very collaborative. It took a lot of effort on everyone’s part.” She said in the beginning of the rehearsals, it was very nice to be able to gather the cast together and go over the relationships between the characters and work on what their own character’s personalities would be like. She called this a “character run-through”. If she had to describe the rehearsal process in three words, the three words would be “Quick, concentrated, and precise.”
When Glonek was asked how she could connect to the show and why, she responded that she could relate to the show and her character a lot because she loathes having a cell phone and she hates how connected everyone seems to be with their cell at all times. If you’re out, there are always two or three people using their cell phone. Connection is now through a device instead of personal contact. Allie said, “If there was one thing to be learned from the show, it would be to not disregard the people in front of you because you feel like you will always be able to contact them. One day, you might not be able to.”
The turn-out for all nights was very good, considering the space and time given to perform the show. Audience member Justin Buddenhagen said that Dead Man’s Cell Phone was “A treat of theater for Waleska. Compelling acting, wonderful directing.” He also recommended, during the weekend it was performed, that everyone should come see the show.
Hannah Craton, Staff Writer