Lorraine Boissoneault

Hotel Cassiopeia, the latest performance set to hit Miami University’s stage, promises to offer students a taste of American art history.

Based on the life and artwork of New Yorker Joseph Cornell, Hotel Cassiopeia combines the fluid movement of ballet dancers, poetry-like dialogue and the artistic imaginings of Cornell himself.

Director Adron Farris describes his first directing experience at Miami as challenging and exhilarating. While Farris has previously worked with community theater groups and with his friends to produce plays, this is his first play directed within an academic setting.

“This play is a completely different experience for Miami students because the audience becomes … part of the performance,” Farris said. “The show isn’t a linear performance and it’s not a story being told. It’s just specific moments that come to us in a dream.”

The freedom to recreate the performance, however, was one thing that attracted Farris to the play.

He chose to draw on the acting techniques developed by Polish director Jerzy Grotowski, which emphasize the physicality of the actors and their movements. The main character of the story is Joseph Cornell, being played by Miami senior Jake Carr. Carr, who has performed in several plays at Miami, said this play is the most challenging experience he has ever had by far.

“The script is challenging because it’s written in the form of a poem and not like a traditional conversation,” Carr said.

Carr said the performance is also challenging because of the enormous amount of physical exertion the actors use in the dancing and body forms.

Senior Lizz Keo, who will be playing the mother and the waitress, echoed Carr’s sentiments.

“We’re always on the stage and always moving,” Keo said. “(Rehearsing for Hotel Cassiopeia is) so much more hard work than any other play.”

Keo, who most recently participated in the Miami production of Taming of the Shrew, said the actors have been rehearsing six days a week, four hours each night since Jan. 12.

Despite the difficulties of such a rigorous schedule, Farris, Keo and Carr all called the experience unique and exciting. Because of the unusual nature of the performance, Farris anticipates student reactions to vary across the board.

“Students will either love it or hate it,” Farris said. “It’s a difficult show to work on and to comprehend, especially if you don’t know the point of inspiration for the show. If you’re not familiar with Cornell … it may not appeal to you.”

Carr displayed similar sentiments about the play’s reception at Miami. He called the play a “big draw” but admitted that it was a completely different experience and might not be what all students are looking for.

Kevin Donnelly, sophomore computer sciences major, has attended other Miami performances and has mixed sentiments about the play.

“It sounds unorthodox,” Donnelly said.

For students wishing to attend the play, performances will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 to 21 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 21 and 22 in the Center for Performing Arts.

Tickets for Hotel Cassiopeia can be bought at the Shriver Center Box Office or at the box office’s Web site.