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Theatre production, 'Oleanna', performs well and stirs up controversy

A&E Editor

Published: Monday, October 1, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 12:10


The Houstonian | Eric Fite

Oleanna, by David Mamet, was a play about the struggle for power between professor and student. The Sam Houston State University Theatre Department put on the play between Wednesday and Saturday in the University Theatre.

On the surface, Oleanna was about the possible relationship between a professor and a student. The student, Carol, played by Kathryn Porterfield, goes to the professor, John, played by Tyler Isaac Martin, for help in his class. He agrees to help her.

When Carol eventually joins a “group” of people charging him with sexual assault, John, who is is up for tenure, loses everything.

This is when the struggle for power comes about. The image that best represents the play is when John is finally fed up with Carol and her abuse of the power. He throws her to the ground and holds a chair over her head as if to hit her. He stops before he hits realizing that he too is abusing the power. This incident also led Carol to see her abuse of the power.

“I forgot how brutal Mamet’s plays are,” Dr. West Gurley, SHSU philosophy professor said. “Things like people brutalizing each other with words. I mean actually not words but understandings, misunderstandings, lacks of understanding. People brutalize each other like that. I mean it’s rough.”


The actors did a fabulous job portraying these two dynamic characters. Porterfield had the difficult task of portraying a college student that represents all minorities.  

“She is the voice of the LGBT alliance, the Secular Student group on campus, the NAACP she is the voice of all of the groups,” Theatre major Amanda Parker said. “I mean we all face adversity, but she is that counter balance voice that you don’t get to hear that much, that was beaten down.”

Oleanna was a play that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Carol and John’s relationship was so tense that the audience couldn’t sit still during the performance.

“They did an absolutely fantastic job,” Shaylor Tillman, political science major, said. “Heart wrenching the entire time, just the dialogue and how it was written and how it was performed. Definitely an emotional roller coaster.”

People had different views on who was to blame, some sympathized with Carol while others just hated her. Porterfield and Martin did a fantastic job on creating these conflicting emotions.

“I want to congratulate Katy Porterfield on her performance,” John Forgy, a theatre major, said. “Because she took a character that is so easily able to be hated and you made you not hate her. She represented any subordinate group against a dominate group and she did a phenomenal job.”

“Obviously the way that it was written you were made to compare them because they used some of the same dialogue at each other,” Tillman said. “I would agree with him because his position as a teacher gave him the ability to teach whatever he wanted to teach. As far as sexual harassment as far as some lines that he crossed. She over exaggerated that in a way that was malignant and slandered.”

This play has already accomplished what director Michelle Ritter wanted, which was to be a conversational piece. It will be something that will be discussed on this campus for a while.

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