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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Theater organization to bring attention to history

Texas+State+student+actors+Nicholas+May+%28left%29%2C+Connor+B.+Duncan+and+Calin+Eastes+rehearse%26%23160%3Bfor+Slaughterhouse-Five%2C+Sunday%2C+March+19%2C+2023%2C+at+the+Theatre+Center.+The+cast+started%26%23160%3Btheir+last+week+of+rehearsals+with+a+pajama+day.

Texas State student actors Nicholas May (left), Connor B. Duncan and Calin Eastes rehearse for Slaughterhouse-Five, Sunday, March 19, 2023, at the Theatre Center. The cast started their last week of rehearsals with a pajama day.

During World War II in February of 1945, Kurt Vonnegut, an American war veteran, was made a prisoner in Slaughterhouse Five when British and American airforces firebombed Dresden, Germany, killing 25,000 people. Vonnegut later wrote his semi-autobiographical science fiction novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” to unravel the experiences of war and its effects through comedic satire. In a black box theater, just over 20 students will take on the novel’s play adaption written by Eric Simonson to raise awareness of the Dresden bombing.
After a month of rehearsing for six days out of the week, the Jeremy Torres Lab Theatre (JTLT), a student-run theater organization, will display its hard work in room 209 of the Theatre Center from March 24-26.
Student directors Kaitlyn Huston, a performance and production senior, and Abigail Thompson, a performance and production sophomore, discovered the play in 2022. Both having read the book prior and having a deep love for it, they applied to put on “Slaughterhouse-Five” through JTLT.
“It’s just so relevant to our culture in our society right now,” Huston said. “With a lot of discourse made about American history…There’s a lot of discourse in politics and in society right now that is deleting that rather than addressing it and facing it and talking about it. So I feel like if our audience leaves with a question of, ‘oh, I didn’t know about the Dresden firebombing. I wonder why I wasn’t taught about that. Let me go look that up. Let me go think about that.’ Then we’ve done our job.”
The play is set in two time periods: 1945 and 1976. The story follows the main character Billy Pilgrim who is captured and imprisoned in Schlachthof Fünf, or Slaughterhouse Five, a real slaughterhouse in Dresden, while also being abducted by aliens called tralfamadorians which allows him to view time in a non-linear way. The show is meant to be a commentary on war and PTSD and how it affects people’s perception of life and time.
“It all culminates in the dressed-in-fire bombings, which is the real event,” Thompson said. “Billy’s life kind of centers around that event and his entire worldview…skipping through time all kind of surrounds his reaction to living through something as horrible as that. It’s a comment on the nature of war and PTSD.”
The different time changes throughout the show are represented by the sound of a theremin. The script called for a sound to differentiate or separate the time zones within the play. From the start, both Huston and Thompson knew they wanted a live instrument and decided on a theremin, an electronic musical instrument consisting of a box and two metal antennas that create an electromagnetic field in which the instrument is played. The theremin is played without any human contact and, for the show, they have used a sound setting to make it sound alien-like and eerie.
The cast and crew were assigned and picked by Huston and Thompson. Part of their mission in casting the show was to include gender non-conforming and female actors in typically male roles to ensure that everyone could relate to the story. Out of 59 people who auditioned, 12 people make up the cast to fill all the roles on the 34-character list. Several actors are playing up to two to five characters each.
“I like the show because it’s a really big challenge,” Calin Eastes, performance and production freshman said. “I’ve never played four different people. It’s hard to jump from scene to scene without any context and just make it up for yourself. So I thought it was a really good acting challenge. I’ve definitely learned a lot.”
On stage and off stage the cast and crew of “Slaughterhouse-Five” take on many roles. Both Huston and Thompson were essential components to set design. Other crew members like Sophia Jovanovic, a theatre education junior, is taking on the roles of assistant director, prop work and lighting design.
After working together and becoming close, the cast and crew are excited to finally show off all of their hard work to tell the up-and-down story of “Slaughterhouse-Five.” They believe learning about history is important so that it’s not repeated and hope the audience leaves with questions and a new perspective.
“It’s a wonderful piece of literature that’s been adapted into a play, and I really encourage anybody who knows the book or doesn’t even know the book to come and watch,” Huston said. “Looking at our history and history, that’s happening right now that we are living through, and just the divide in our opinions and in our society and in our government. There needs to be a reckoning or recognition that war and tragedy affects every single person.”
JTLT will present “Slaughterhouse-Five” at 7:30 p.m. from March 24-25 and at 2:00 p.m. on March 26 in room 209 of the Theatre Center. Tickets are $5 cash or through Venmo.

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