By Loren Terveer
Photo Credit: Aquila Theatre, 2018 – Photos by Richard Termine
Last month, Aquila Theatre stopped at McKendree as a part of their nation-wide tour. The group performed a special shortened stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the iconic science fiction novel, for local high schools and McKendree students. The event attracted several high school groups who were then able to participate in a short question and answer panel with the cast.
Shelley’s iconic tale of a scientist’s creation gone awry has proven itself to be timeless. If you are unfamiliar with Frankenstein, it tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who creates life on a lab table from an assortment of stolen body parts. His creation, often referred to as Frankenstein’s “Monster,” wreaks havoc in the Swiss mountains by murdering a string of Victor’s friends and relatives in an effort to come face to face with the creator, Victor, who abandoned him. Frankenstein poses many philosophical questions regarding life, death, and the morality of the scientific efforts of humans. Since its origin in 1816 the novel has been adapted in many ways on stage and screen and remains relevant to this day.
Aquila, the performing group, is a small organization that has been established in New York City since 2000. They have done a variety of shows such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sense and Sensibility, and many more for theatre festivals as well as nation-wide tours. According to their website, Aquila is “the foremost producer of touring classical theatre in the United States visiting 50-60 American cities per year.” Luckily for us, they visited McKendree this year.
Before the show begins the audience is presented with an almost barren stage. Aquila has a reputation in the theatre world for their minimal set designs. For this particular performance the stage was decorated with three long fabrics that were sheer enough to see through but upheld a variety of projections, a single stool, and a hospital gurney that would later be used as a bed and table. The minimal set pieces shifted the audience’s primary focus to the actors who did a phenomenal job.
Regarding acting, Aquila goes above and beyond. Their small group is made up of entirely professional actors who seem to put their all into their roles. From the perspective of an audience member, the acting was polished and entirely believable. The acting, along with the detailed costume design, was the highlight of the entire show. The actors also provided insight on their process during the short question and answer session after the show. The group gave the audience details on their origins, techniques, and thoughts about organizing and putting on a production.
The next time Aquila visits McKendree, treat yourself and pick up a ticket. You will be glad you did.