‘An Enemy of the People’ blends retro themes and modern issues


The Appalachian Online

Jordan Parkhurst


The department of theatre and dance’s first main stage production of the year will run Sept. 30 until Oct. 4 at the Valborg Theatre.

The play, titled “An Enemy of the People,” is directed by Kin-Yan Szeto, associate professor of theatre and dance. It features a multi-disciplinary cast and several student designers tasked with the goal of recreating the aesthetic of the seemingly idyllic 1950s.

The play focuses on the effects of water pollution in a small town.

Originally written in 1882, Szeto envisioned a more modern retelling and saw parallels to the mid-20th century, she said. She spoke about this vision for the play and explained her logic behind the play’s highly stylized setting.

“The play actually mirrors the historical development of media technology, so we were inspired by the revolutionary era of the 1950s, with the transition from black and white to color film,” she said. “In theater, we like to play with aspects from film and blend them together.”

David Sabbagh, senior theatre design and technology major, is the sound designer for the production. He described his task of choosing all the music and practical sound effects for the play as an enjoyable experience, thanks to Szeto.

“It was really fun coming up with music to fit that 1950s idyllic television style,” he said, “especially because, as the play progresses, it all falls apart. She just had such a cool concept for the show.”

For the play’s meaning regarding sustainability, Szeto said it resonates with her and the students because of the large-scale ideas within it. Particularly because of the relevancy of the messages to actors, the piece is very well matched to the people bringing it to life, she said.

“I think the strength of the cast is that they are very committed. I was very moved by their dedication and efforts, and I think they work really well together as an ensemble,” she said. “They were very much inspired by the ideas of the being responsible and, at the same time, telling the truth and being true to yourself. It’s very important in a world that is cold and materialistic. People will get lost in a world like this, and you will either be able to follow a dream or not. And I think that speaks to many people — especially young actors.”

Justin McGovney, a senior theatre arts major, agreed with her perspective.

“The issues that this play addresses will certainly get people thinking. It brings up two opposing ideas: doing what is right and being truthful or feeling secure in one’s lifestyle, holding a job and not going into poverty. I think it will get people to really reevaluate their positions,” McGovney said.

In the play, McGovney plays lead character Thomas Stockmann, the local. This is his first lead role at Appalachian.

“I learned so much about my character and the requirements and stresses put onto a lead character,” he said. “But I think, most of all, is that this the first play where I have finally got comfortable with myself on the stage and with other actors. And I love how we are all pieces in this giant puzzle, all to make a picture of ‘the truth.’”

The work of McGovney, Sabbagh, Szeto and others can be seen from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Valborg Theatre.

Story by: Jordan Parkhurst, Intern A&E Reporter