Theatre performance shows adolescent grief

Michael Cummings, Staff Writer

cummings@grinnell.edu

Grinnell College students may recognize themselves in the Theatre Department’s first play of the year, “The Boy Who Fell from the Roof.” The play by South African playwright Juliet Jenkin, focuses on themes such as adolescence, sexuality, race and death.

The play centers on the character of Simon Thomas Lyndsay, an adolescent, gay South African whose life is interrupted during a time of self-discovery. The other three characters are his mother, his best friend and his lover.

“This play is mostly about coming to terms with the death of someone that you know,” said Michael Kelley ’16, who portrays Lyndsay in the play.

Grace Lloyd ’16, Stella Gatzke ’17 and Michael Kelley ’16 rehearse a scene for “The Boy Who Fell from the Roof.” Photo by Sno Zhao

Grace Lloyd ’16, Stella Gatzke ’17 and Michael Kelley ’16 rehearse a scene for “The Boy Who Fell from the Roof.” Photo by Sno Zhao

Grace Lloyd ’16, who plays Lyndsay’s best friend Georgina, said that although the play explores many deeper themes, it has a much more simple and universal message than may be obvious at face value.

“What the play is basically trying to do is to be just a coming of age story,” Lloyd said. “It’s not just about death or life—it’s truly about a boy as he is growing up.”

This play marks the Grinnell directing debut of Professor Gibson Cima, Theatre. Cima is a visiting professor taking the place of Professor Craig Quintero, Theatre, who is on leave this year.

Cima, who specializes in post-Apartheid South African theatre, said he chose to run this play because many of the themes originally intended for a South African audience could do equally well in America.

“This is a play that really could translate and speak to audiences here in the United States,” Cima said, reflecting on his thoughts the first time he saw the play back in 2007.

Cima added that this play will speak particularly to  a college-age audience.

“This play was written by someone who was in college when she wrote it, it speaks to the concerns of present-day college students,” Cima said.

The play is notable for its very small cast – only four actors – and for the fact that three out of the four actors play age-appropriate roles.

“So often in university theatre, you’re an 18- or a 19- or a 20-year-old playing a 70-year-old or a 50-year-old,” Cima said, noting that three of the actors play characters who are around 18-years-old.

Although there are many features that might draw a prospective actor to a play like this, Kelley cited its South African roots as what originally pulled him to it.

“I lived in Namibia for two years prior to coming back to the States, and I definitely miss South African culture,” Kelley said. “Hearing even more about the history as I was going to the auditions, I got more and more excited about the different issues we were tackling.”

For Lloyd, it was the character of Georgina that drew her to the play.

“I just thought she was really spunky and she is, she’s the reason my hair is red. I don’t think I ever would have been brave enough to do that,” Lloyd said. “Her character is very much like steampunk-goth-retro-I don’t know, she’s sort of a lot of things all balled up into one, but … I thought that was really fun, and I thought I could do her justice.”

“The Boy Who Fell From the Roof” will run tonight, Friday, Oct. 9, and Saturday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 11, at 2 p.m.