As the audience surrounds the stage set in the “well” of Kinkaid’s Commons, gothic hymns fill the silence. Agnes, dressed in pure white, appears from behind the wall singing “Kyrie Eleison,” translated, “Lord Have Mercy.”
The usual tables filled with binders, strewn Dorito wrappers, and water rings from the cafeteria cups were no more as the Commons was transformed into a stage for KinkADE Underground’s first production.
KinkADE Underground “provides an opportunity for our advanced acting students to create an ‘Actor Driven Event’… while working on literature that challenges both actor and audience to critically think about more complicated social issues,” Mr. Lambert, Director of the Visual and Performing Acts explained.
The show’s three actresses, Riley Shaper (12), Avery Looser (12) and Carlie Sachs (11) entranced the audience with their haunting performance. The two-hour play, written by Mr. John Pielmeier, is about a psychiatrist, Martha Livingston (played by Shaper), who interrogates Mother Superior (played by Sachs) and Agnes (played by Looser) to find the truth about a child who was killed after birth and stuffed in a wastepaper basket.
Acting in the Commons is not an easy task.
Mr. Lambert explained how “there were certainly struggles in the space… If you were to go back and watch the show again you would realize that the actors were constantly moving on angles in order to allow the audience to get glimpses of them rather consistently.”
Sachs further clarified how “the walls in the ‘well’ in the center of the commons are fairly high… so it was very difficult to stage and make blocking choices when you have to play to 3 sides rather than just one side, like in a normal proscenium stage.”
This production of Agnes of God was not a typical play: the actresses performed with no sets, no lights, and no costumes. The play was a challenge meant for advanced acting students, as it takes a certain proficiency to act without props, a set, lighting, and costumes. Although there were some lights on the floor and on the mantle, little pieces of ribbon—representing blood—and Agnes dressed in white, the actresses had little to utilize in order to not only entertain, but also educate the audience.
According to Mr. Lambert, Agnes of God “offers something on a Kinkaid stage [we] don’t see in [our] everyday lives… forcing us to look into the gray areas between science and religion and between facts and faith.”
Some scenes feature arguments between Mother Superior and Martha Livingston, while others portray Agnes during a hypnosis remembering her conception and birth of her dead newborn. With each scene, the audience feels more captivated, forming their predictions as to who killed the newborn baby.
The three actresses worked on the play for almost eight weeks, rehearsing several hours each day.
Shaper, Sachs, and Looser were all in agreement that finishing a run was by far the most rewarding part of the show. “All of us put so much emotion into our performances and finishing a run is not only exhausting, but also extremely rewarding,” Looser explained.
Agnes of God is alluring and entertaining for the audience because it “asks us to ask questions to better understand the other whole, telling us it is okay to live in a world that is not neat and clear,” Mr. Lambert said.
Shows took place from Oct. 17-21 in the Commons, with a huge success. Sachs explained how the 1st and 3rd shows completely sold out, and they even had to add additional chairs to accommodate more; the 2nd show came close, only to fall short five seats.
Sachs added on, explaining how Agnes of God was “such a journey and an emotional roller coaster.”