This week, Theatre Intime’s “Gidion’s Knot” closes out the last three performances of its two-week run. Written originally by Johnna Adams and directed on campus by Victoria Gruenberg ’16, the show features just two actors, Ugonna Nwabueze ’18 and Hope Kean ’18. Street sat down with Gruenberg and Nwabueze to talk about what it was like to be put on this short but emotionally high-stakes play. This Q&A has edited and condensed for clarity.
Daily Princetonian: Tell us about “Gidion’s Knot”.
Ugonna Nwabueze: The way that I’ve described the plot is that a woman’s son commits suicide after he’s suspended from middle school — so it’s a two-woman play, and the setting is a classroom during a parent-teacher’s conference where [the mother is] talking with the teacher, and she’s trying to figure out what happened.
DP: What drew you to the show? Why were you interested in doing it and being part of it?
Victoria Gruenberg: I was an educational policy concentrator in the Wilson School, and I transferred to the English department. I’m really interested in political theater, and I went to a professor and said, “I really want to work with a political play.” He handed me this. I also felt it was going to be a huge challenge because the script is written [in a] way I’ve never seen any script written: It’s got lines, but it’s also got pauses marked with ellipses, so you’ll have someone say a line, and then you’ll have “Heather,” ellipses. “Corryn,” ellipses. “Heather,” ellipses. And you have to figure out what is supposed to happen there, and why the characters are pausing, and what they’re doing instead of talking. Those were both big things for me.
DP: It sounds like there’s a lot of very strong emotion in this play. Ugonna, how did you as an actor get into character for that?
UN: It was definitely difficult. There were times where I didn’t want to do certain emotional scenes because it was just extremely draining. Also, the character that I play, Corryn, is very out there, and so just channeling her — it’s actually weird, because it was only the night before opening night, at the dress rehearsal, that I finally figured her out; it clicked. And I’d been working on this since the summer. That should tell you how difficult this character was.
DP: How did having just two actors make the experience different from other plays you’ve been in or directed?
UN: You’re feeding off of each other and you’re building off of each other. Victoria mentioned energy. Energy is so, so important, and so when you have only two people filling up the space, there’s a lot of energy required by each person to fill that up. That is definitely so different from a bigger ensemble.
VG: I got very lucky because Hope and Ugonna actually have a relationship as human beings — they know each other as students. I didn’t know that when I was casting them, but I could tell that on stage, they had a good chemistry for the characters.
UN: It’s funny because we didn’t know each other before. And I think Hope was very crucial in that, because there was a time after practice — this is late at night; she goes, “No, we need to work on our chemistry; come to the Chapel with me.” And she made us stand there looking into each other’s eyes for 15 minutes.
DP: Has being part of this production made you think differently about these big-ticket issues that it touches on?
VG: I think it actually hits some of the issues that you’re not expecting. I picked it originally because I thought it was going to be about the education system, which is something I’m very concerned about, but at the end of the day, it has a lot more to do with people. It comes down more specifically to just, what do you when your world sort of flattens? I feel that the play ends up coming down to a line that Corryn has, actually, which is: “Cut it, or figure it out.” She’s talking about a Gordian knot presentation that one of the student does, and when we’re faced with these giant conflicts, do we cut ourselves off from it? Or try to work ourselves back out into a straight line? And it’s not a woman-only show. By far and away not. But it is really nice to watch two empowered women onstage, especially of minority races. That, I think, is a really, really important image that we don’t see enough on campus.
“Gidion's Knot” will be showing on Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Hamilton-Murray Theater.