Preview: "Skinwalking"

New Play Explores Transitory States


March 23-26, 7:30 p.m. and March 26, 2:30 p.m.

Loeb Experimental Theater

Directed by Cecelia A. Raker ’11

Produced by Katherine M.  Agard ’13


“It’s about the encounter of an adamantly rational person with the world of the gritty and the miraculous,” says Cecelia A. Raker ’11, writer and director of the new play “Skinwalking.” The play, also Raker’s senior thesis, draws deeply from her experiences growing up in New Mexico. A story of religion, fantasy, and family, “Skinwalking” weaves an intricate tale of mystery and emotion.

On the surface, “Skinwalking” tells the story of Mari (Xanthia A. Tucker ’13), a young woman who returns to her childhood home, where she must confront the reality of her grandmother’s death and cope with the problems in her family’s past. To heighten the drama of the plot, Raker places her characters in an alternate universe where religious extremism is fanatically opposed. In this surreal world, a stark dichotomy exists between the zealous religious fervor of the rural hills and the secularism of the rational city. “Place is really important in the show,” says actor Sara S. Lytle ’13. “You can tell it’s set somewhere that Raker knows really well.”

“Skinwalking” is perhaps most notable for its monstrous and mythical namesake, the Skinwalker (Rebecca H. Kwan ’14). Meant to embody loneliness, fear, and self-doubt, Kwan stalks and slithers across the stage, ‘taking on new skins’ in the manner of a traditional werewolf or shape-shifter. To emphasize these transitory states, much of the show is highly choreographed and intensely physical. “When you’re trying to access a lot of very painful feelings, synching your body with your emotional shifts provides a lot of depth,” says Lytle.

Like the play’s title character, the production itself has undergone several transformations over the course of its rehearsals. Raker has encouraged each of her actors to craft an individual interpretation of the play’s characters. “It’s impossible to have a one-woman show or a one-man show,” she says. “I love that point where the actors start to know the characters better than I do.” Producer Katherine M. Agard ’13 expresses a similar sense of anticipation for the show. “It’s going to be surprising, I think,” she says.