Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

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HT: ‘The Women in the Woods’ review: Charge your smartphone, lace your shoes

Connie Shakalis | HT Reviewer

October 4, 2020

 

I missed the right turn into Dunn’s Woods, got way off track, and enjoyed the radio play all the more.

 

Cardinal Stage’s artistic director, Kate Galvin, having seen a similar concept to walkabout radio plays in Pennsylvania — according to Cassie Hakken, Cardinal’s marketing manager — has devised a refreshing method of play-going for us to see, in our imaginations, and hear, on our smartphones.

 

Saturday afternoon lent itself to the wondrous speaking voice of Aubrey Seader as Ellie, in Josie Gingrich’s original play “The Women in the Woods.” As soon as I heard Seader speak, early in Scene I as I strolled the campus, I remembered how well-suited she is for the stage, and apparently, radio. She stole the show, along with sound designer and editor Robert Hornbostel, who added music and Foley (sound) effects in all the right places, and production manager and recording engineer, Corey Hollinger, who mastered a polished, professional recording.

 

Especially for someone fidgety, like me, walkabout plays are ideal, and I hope this sets a precedent. Indiana University has one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States, and I’ve heard that most (yes, most!) south-central Hoosiers have never seen it. That needs to change, and Galvin might be the catalyst.

 

(The play, however, can of course be enjoyed from anywhere.)

 

If Cardinal Stage hopes to unite community with campus, this is an invitation not to be ignored. The price is reasonable, with donations suggested; the map is easy to read (Why did I get lost? Not Cardinal’s fault; I just got too interested in the play to refer to the map), and the exercise and view are splendid bonuses.

 

I arrived at the starting point with plenty of time, assuming something with the technology was bound to misfire. But every glitch seems to have been smoothed, and Cardinal made the 50-minute tour/play a breeze, literally; how can one not enjoy a good story while fresh October air tousles one’s hair?

 

The voices and styles of two of the other women characters sounded alike to me, so I couldn’t quite determine who was speaking at times. The plot revolves around a spookily guarded family secret and includes bribery, guilt trips, mother-daughter conflicts, ghosts — and a full scholarship to IU; listeners will find out why.

 

After passing through the Sample Gates, at the walk’s beginning, listeners come to the campus’ Ernie Pyle statue. Eerily, as I ended the tour an hour later, a woman stopped me to ask, “Excuse me, do you know where the Ernie Pyle statue is?” Maybe she was on the walkabout, too, but I didn’t see a smartphone. It added an extra kick of Halloween aura.

 

I am now enamored of walkabout plays and envision all sorts of plots that could be perfect for our town and campus. With a young man having recently been killed by a moving vehicle on Third Street, I hope the tours will remain on campus and off the city streets.

 

As I ambled about after the finale I noticed dozens of campus corners aching to be part of Galvin’s next “set.” and even in winter, as long as the paths aren’t icy, I think it’s a go. Galvin included plenty of places to stop and sit, and listeners can easily pause their smartphones at any time during the play. I took a dip into the newly retooled Eskenazi Museum of Art for a restroom break. And once its cafe reopens, there will be a refreshment opportunity for play “goers.”

 

For lovers of Cardinal, radio plays, the IU campus and Bloomington history (I learned, among other facts, that the cemetery near the Biddle Hotel and chapel has been there since before Indiana was a state), this is a get-it-done-today. For everyone else, it’s a concept worth the trying.

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