Imagination allows us to transcend our realities. It enables us to explore even the most familiar places because we can find new significance. We delve into the past and present in order to see memories, desires, dreams, volitions, loves and fears on varying philosophical levels. “A Journey Around My Room” is a compilation of this search—an expedition into the mind of writer Xavier de Maistre.
Such an imagination was presented last weekend in the ’92 Theater through Emmalee Riegler’s ’08 senior thesis theater production, adapted from de Maistre’s autobiographical account of his confinement in a room for 42 days. Riegler portrayed de Maistre’s story through a cast that featured the triumphant trio of Jermaine Lewis ’09, Dylan Marron ’10, and Caitlin Winiarski ’10. The actors portrayed the character of de Maistre, as well as a few others mentioned in his story. The trio engaged the audience with their constant play. Archaic language and beautifully-flowing choreography exemplified the poetic quality of the writing. Although the speech was not always coherent, such flaws were easily overshadowed by the remarkable focus and artistic splendor of the movement and activity of the cast.
Riegler did well to have all three actors utilize the entire floor of the ’92 Theater and interact with audience members, who were seated in wooden chairs strategically scattered amongst the space. At some point in the production, each audience member made contact with a cast member. Perhaps this only exemplifies the ingenuity of Riegler. She might do even better to show us how the mind works, as attention and thoughts are often shifting towards what is seen as most proximate and captivating in the play. This is only achieved by the cast’s awareness and cohesion with one another—allowing for transitions between scenes with de Maistre and his servant or unrequited love, and the musings of de Maistre’s collective voice, which was often spoken by only one member of the cast, but physically portrayed by all.
Emily Gallivan ’08, scenic designer, created a simple but highly effective use of the space by having various objects lowered from the ceiling. The set employed a whimsical selection of plain props taken to a whole new realm of imagination and a nontraditional audience configuration that allowed a greater level of connection to the cast. The use of a pulley system allowed for the overhanging props to be lowered, creating a stunning visual display of de Maistre’s constant nostalgia. These effects broke the “fourth wall” between stage and audience to such an extent that Lewis at one point beckons the audience to have tea. As baskets filled with teacups were then lowered from above, and tea arrived upon wheeled platforms reminiscent of toy train set, the trio filled the cups of audience members with warm peppermint tea. This moment allowed the audience to fall into a false sense of comfort before the play turned from its more lighthearted exploration of a room into a melancholy examination of human existence.
Not only did this rendition of “A Journey Around My Room” touch upon the blithe idiosyncrasies of de Maistre, but it went on to philosophize nature, life, and death, culminating in an organic ending. Riegler skillfully adapted this story and executed it with strong directorial choices that allowed the audience to understand the beauty of the imagination, and to appreciate and transcend the banality of journeying around one’s room.