Laura S. Hirschberg, ’09, an English concentrator, is the director of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia,” which will begin running in the Loeb Experimental Theater April 4th. This is the second production Hirschberg is directing on campus.
I’m a total theater nerd. Completely addicted in every way possible. I’ve been doing theater on stage but mainly behind the scenes. I was in Gilbert and Sullivan in fall ’05. In the same semester I also took part in “Ruddigor,” where I met a lot of people I’m still in touch with. One of the people from that production is now the president of the HRDC [Harvard Radcliffe Drama Club], and a couple of them are actually in the cast of “Arcadia.”
Hirschberg’s involvement in arts on campus is not limited only to theater. Since her freshman spring, she has been singing in Kuumba.
I love to sing. I didn’t want to sing in Latin, so that cut out a bunch of the choirs. I had plenty of Latin in high school. I just jumped into Kuumba. It’s such a great community, nice people and beautiful music. I just came back from the spring break tour in Chicago, It was such a blast. You come back with a Kuumba high. It’s a great mix of total silliness and serious, intense conversations till four in the morning.
Hirschberg believes that the presence of comedy is crucial to all of her artistic work.
Theater can be oppressive if you don’t have something funny. Doing comedy well is tough, even scary because if a joke falls flat it kills the scene. The intensity of the scene is what keeps you at the edge of your seat but the comedy is what keeps you wanting to be on your seat in the first place. In order to be interesting, a play doesn’t have to be a comedy at all, but there has to be a humanity to it that, I think, is inherently silly.
Humor and witty dialogue are important elements of what makes the play interesting, according to Hirschberg. However, she also believes this play is of special interest to the Harvard community.
It’s a great Harvard play because it’s such a nerdy play. Oh my god, it discusses chaos theory and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Every now and then there are poetry quotations from characters like Lord Byron. Also, there’s a character of an academic that you’d actually want to be like so you figure, it’s worthwhile to stay at Widener late. It’s a play that rewards nerdiness. It’s a play about ideas, lots of things happen but what you take from them are new ways of thinking—some pretty deep things and some pretty silly things as well. So I’d say it’s about sex, literature, and chaos theory.
Interestingly, “Arcadia” debuts on campus the same day as “Blasted,” another British play written in the 1990s. Hirschberg finds it to be no coincidence.
There’s definitely a pull to do newer stuff. There’s a freshness to the modern pieces. But “Twelfth Night” is still coming up every once in a while. It’s always interesting to see what pops up in a season. People like a wide variety of things, and when you get a group of people excited about something at the same time, you can never know what will happen. It’s been such a good season so far. It’s really exciting to come to the same idea from so many different angles. The Mainstage has a theme of cannibalism this season. Personally, I’m excited about “Blasted.” It’s going to be crazy.
After this production is over, Hirschberg is going to try not to fail her classes. She sees her summer break as the last time she can avoid worrying about her future.
I think I’m going to take my savings and go to Europe. I’ll probably end up seeing lots of plays in an English-speaking theater. I love working in the theater. A couple of summers ago I had an all-summer job in The Workshop Theater, an off-off Broadway. On the first day they told me I would stage manage a show. They treated me like I knew what I was doing or I was about to figure out very quickly. During that time I also did sound operating for a magic show. It wasn’t a bad way to live. I still haven’t figured all the magic tricks, though.