The ETSU Theatre Department presented their spring stage production of “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” this past weekend on April 7-10 in the Bud Frank Theatre.
Directed by ETSU professor Bobby Funk, “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” focuses on the life of Henry David Thoreau in the mid-1800s during his young adulthood. He is jailed because he refuses to pay taxes for the land that he occupied on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s property.
“There could be two people who wrote two different plays about Henry David Thoreau and the characters could be completely different,” said lead actor Evin McQuistion, “so I tried to shape my portrayal of him based on what is written in the play.”
Thoreau’s story is told in a series of flashbacks as he relives them during his night in a jail cell with a dim-witted, but eager man named Bailey. Thoreau teaches Bailey how to write his name and Thoreau reminisces on the past when he taught schoolchildren.
“I’ve heard certain professors mention Thoreau in some of my education and wildlife conservation classes, but this play really taught me who he was and what he stood for,” said actor Trenton Fines.
The play focuses on Thoreau, but is truly about the complexities of the human condition. Thoreau spent most of his life bucking against authority and encouraged others to do so, but only if there was a logical reasoning behind it.
“I think that if there is any moral to be found, it’s that you should not go along with the grain,” McQuistion said. “That’s a common theme, and almost a joke throughout the play when others tell him to ‘go along.'”
“The show also has a tendency to kind of get preachy if it’s not done right, but I think that if you have a good ensemble then it really does help,” said actor Caroline Denning.
The actors also explained that the social commentary of the play could be topical during almost any period throughout history, and that is what makes the play such a revered classic.
For information about upcoming productions visit http://www.etsu.edu/cas/comm_perform/theatre/ or call 423-439-6511.