‘A magical world’: JSU continues diverse season with ‘Illusion’
by Erin Williams
Special to The Star
Nov 11, 2012 | 2762 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Daniel Matchen and Michael Turner star in Jacksonville State University’s production of ‘The Illusion.’ Photo: Special to The Star
Daniel Matchen and Michael Turner star in Jacksonville State University’s production of ‘The Illusion.’ Photo: Special to The Star
Drama at Jacksonville State University has been nothing if not varied . From Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound” to classic tales like “The Princess and the Pea,” the works from the past few seasons have run between topics of family, fortune, fun and all things in between. But this may mark the first time that the theater has chosen to go completely beyond the idea of fantasy into the unknown. In Tony Kushner’s comedy “The Illusion,” which premieres Thursday, a father’s world and life are greatly enhanced when, on a quest to find out more about the life of his son, he is taken through a series of vignettes by a sorcerer named Alcandre.

The play is a bit out there for the department, says senior Katie Daniels, who plays three different roles in the show, but she feels that theatergoers will appreciate it.

“I start very young and then kind of get scorned, and then I wise up,” she says of her three-in-one performance. “It’s a different type of show than we’ve ever done before. It’s a very well-balanced play. It has enough intensity and enough humor in it to captivate you, but … the humor is there just enough to alleviate that tension.”

While Daniels admits she didn’t know anything about the play before the audition, she was drawn in when she read over a special monologue that the character Lyse had.

“You go on a journey with her just reading it in general,” she says of realizing the depth behind the role. “It drew me in because I realized the journey that I would get to take if I got this part, and it’s real exciting for me.”

Daniel Matchen, a sophomore, actually went out for the role of the main character’s assistant, Garard, but became “obsessed” with Alcandre after reading the script and realizing just how out there the character is.

“I’ve always been kind of obsessed with creepy characters,” he says of the sorcerer role. “It is probably the craziest character I’ve ever played.”

After getting hurt playing sports as a freshman in high school, the Birmingham native turned to theater as a fun extracurricular activity. He admits he was “scared out of my mind,” when he played his first role as Major Metcalfe in a rendition of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” but ended up loving the stage.

“I never thought I’d be in this position … because I was so involved in sports,” says the former athlete, “but the world has a crazy way of getting you where you need to be, and I think this is where I need to be.”

Matchen admits that it’s hard for him to hold his composure around Daniels, who can be a bit of a jokester.

“We were doing a scene last night, and I think we just all stopped and laughed, for like 10 minutes straight, because of what she was doing,” he remembers of her comic relief, which he admits he will miss about her, among other things, once she leaves. “I’ve only been here for three months, and she’s already affected me that much.”

The appreciation he feels for his castmate translates well to his feelings for the cast.

“This whole show has been just eye opening, because I’ve never been a part of something that has been willing to work so hard to produce such a great show.”

For Daniels, who is graduating in December, playing her final role carries a bit of excitement and sadness. For kicks, she is auditioning for the spring musical “Brigadoon.”

“It will be a little sad to know that I can’t do it,” says the 25-year-old, who is moving to New York after graduation. “Kind of hurts, but it’ll be fun.”

She hopes the message of supporting a loved one along with the magic of the show translates well for the audience.

“Theater is a magical world in which you can escape, and this allows you to escape into three different illusions — and you get to take the journey with people.” Adds Matchen, “Everyone can relate to it, and I feel like that’s [people] come to see theater anyways — to relate to something and be taken away from their real lives.”

Erin Williams is a multimedia journalist currently based in St. Louis.

“The Illusion”

Thursday - Saturday at 7 p.m., Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

Where: Ernest Stone Performing Arts Center, corner of 11th Street and Church Avenue, Jacksonville State University

Cost: $5 – $10

Contact: 256-782-5648 or visit jsu.edu/drama
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