Family weekend is a treasured Centre tradition that gives students a chance to show their families around campus and share a sliver of their life as a college student. A hallmark of the event is a completely student-run theatrical performance by the drama department, and this year’s show, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball by Rebecca Gilman, guarantees to be hard-hitting in more ways than one.
The play follows the story of Dana Fielding, a talented but struggling artist whose lack of success drives her to attempt suicide. Her actions land her in the local psych ward, where, after discovering that her insurance will only cover a 10-day visit, she teams up with an alcoholic and a sociopath to convince her doctors that she requires a longer stay. Her trick? Pretending that she is major league baseball player Darryl Strawberry, a seemingly lighthearted decision that takes Dana down a bumpy and revealing path of self-discovery.
If the dark comedy sounds like a somewhat unconventional Family Weekend show, it is. Olivia Palmer ’14, the director of Sweetest Swing, explains how the dark-horse play came to be selected.
“The Drama department approached me with four different plays to choose from,” she says. “I’ve never had much interest in baseball, so I assumed I wouldn’t be too interested in a play about baseball. But by the time I was done reading Sweetest Swing, I knew I had just read the Family Weekend show for 2013.”
For Palmer, the production’s title can be somewhat misleading.
“Rather than the play being about baseball, it’s about the pressure to find personal fulfillment in a world that’s constantly telling you how to live your life,” she explains. “Life is messy, and too often we try to structure it into something predictable and organized. This play gets at the heart of this struggle to come to terms with the chaos and accept it as a part of us.”
As director, Palmer has been involved in every aspect of the production, from gathering a team of designers and casting the show to carefully shaping the performance by working closely with individual actors.
“I also find that the director is very much responsible for maintaining the atmosphere of the rehearsal space,” she notes. “I like a room that encourages collaboration and hard work, and I try everyday to maintain that balance.”
For Palmer, though the dark comedy has intense subject matter, it is the perfect show for Family Weekend.
“Families, like life, are messy and complex, dark and comedic, frustrating and comforting,” she says. “We have to be open, both to accepting our families as they are and to discovering new ways to balance our ideals with our mess.”
A highlight of the production for Palmer has been the extremely rewarding opportunity to collaborate in creative ways with others.
“From day one I have been incredibly impressed by the commitment and creativity that every single individual has brought to this process,” she says. “I feel honored and humbled to be working with a group of such incredibly talented people.”
The Sweetest Swing in Baseball will be showing in Weisiger Theatre, Thursday and Friday, September 19-20, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, September 21, at 5 p.m.
Cast and Crew:
Emily Nuthall ’15 – Dana Fielding
Andrew Stairs ’14 – Roy/Gary
Ryley Swanner ’16 – Rhonda/Dr.Gilbert
Joshua Jerome ’15 – Brian/Michael
Becky Barefield ’16 – Erica/Dr.Stanton
Stage Manager – Caroline Holland ’16
Assistant Stage Manager – Nicole Pottinger ’16
Scenic Designer – Olivia Kernekin ’15
Lighting Designer – Tyler Rowe ’14
Costume Designer – Kayla Higbee ’14
Props Designer – Chelsea Faist ’14
Sound Designer – Keegan Andres’14
By Mariel Smith