Oct. 11-12 7:30 p.m.,
Oct. 13 1:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m
Directed by Sayantan Deb ’14
Produced by Alice Abracen ‘15
Written by Hayley C. Cuccinello ’14
Can you really grow up if you never leave home? “Jenna’s Birthday,” an original play penned by Hayley C. Cuccinello ’14, a Crimson arts executive, grapples with this question and more. Running from October 11 through October 13 at the Adams Pool Theater, the play chronicles a (birth)day-in-the-life of the title character: a twenty-three year old who suffers from a neurological disorder called hemiagnosia which prevents her perceiving her left field of vision, or from escaping the doldrums of her Midwestern hometown.
Though “Jenna’s Birthday” documents a very particular struggle, its overarching themes aim to strike a chord with the Harvard community. “In one sense it’s a play about a girl with a disability…but it’s not about invoking pity. It’s about something more universal: trying to deal with the banality of your life, and trying to grow up on your own terms,” Cuccinello says. “The characters are all youngish people in a fairly boring town and unsatisfied with their lives, and the play is really about them trying to find something more.”
The Adams Pool debut will mark the first time “Jenna’s Birthday” is staged, but Cuccinello’s play already has an impressive track record. In 2010, the play was one of eight winners of the Young Playwright’s Inc. National Playwriting Competition. Following its win, “Jenna’s Birthday” enjoyed a professional reading.
The team behind “Jenna’s Birthday” includes several students who are new to their jobs. This is the directorial debut of Sayantan Deb ’14, and stage manager Madeline R. Zhu ‘14 and set designer Zena M. S. Mengesha ’14 are stepping up to bat for the first time. Deb feels this fits in well with a theme of “Jenna’s Birthday.” “One of the messages that the play tries to get across is to try to trust in yourself and the people in your lives. I think we’ve also lived through developing that trust for each other,” he says.
The themes of “Jenna’s Birthday” will be aided by the relative smallness of the Adams Pool. “The play is quite intimate,” Deb says,. “It’s about bringing the audience into the world of these characters, into small town Appleton, WI. Why does Jenna feel so claustrophobic in this town?...We’re trying to get across this idea of feeling something’s not quite right” he adds.
—Emma R. Adler