Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Lafayette College Theater will present Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne’s The Man Who 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 2-5, in the Williams Center for the Arts. Tickets cost $6 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

Student actors will perform two scenes and discuss their experiences making The Man Who at a brown bag preview 12:10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, at the Williams Center main stage. Lunch will be available for $3 or audience members may bring their own.

Based on Oliver Sacks’ bestseller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, the play probes the connections between neurological dysfunction and theater’s subversion of language. Brook, whose productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Marat/Sade, and The Mahabharata are among the landmarks of modern theater, has created a highly intelligent, sometimes humorous, always exciting voyage to what he calls “the great new subject of universal interest – the human brain.”

Michael O’Neill, director of theater, believes the relationship between theater performance and a book is an appropriate contribution to the Roethke Humanities Festival. Themed “The Book Re-Visioned: Crossroads of Traditions and Technologies,” this year’s Roethke festival celebrates books and their many interpretations and permutations through exhibitions, readings, workshops, lectures, performances, and special events. A complete schedule can be found by visiting, Quick Links, Performing Arts/Williams Center. The festival is named in honor of poet Theodore Roethke, who taught at Lafayette for four years in the 1930s.

Patients portrayed in the play suffer from various neurological conditions, including epilepsy, characterized by seizures; Tourette Syndrome, which causes involuntary motor and vocal tics; visual agnosia, the inability to recognize familiar people or objects; and loss of proprioception, a condition in which the patient cannot sense the position of parts of the body relative to other neighboring parts of the body. O’Neill notes that portraying these characters with believability stretches the students’ acting skills.

The cast is led by four seniors: Marquis Scholar and history, law, and ethics major Colby Block ’06 (Boca Raton, Fla.), Marquis Scholar and electrical and computer engineering major John Kolba ’06 (Chelmsford, Mass.), Marquis Scholar and biology major Jessica Zafonte ’06 (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.), and double major in psychology and English Emily Becher ’06 (Loudonville, N.Y.). Trustee Scholar and English major Sarah Templeton ’06 (Metuchen, N.J.) is O’Neill’s assistant director. English major Tyler Cohn ’06 (Wantagh, N.Y.) is stage manager.

The crew is completed by Dick Kendrick, set design; D. Polly Kendrick, costume design; Vicki Neal, lighting design; and Tim Frey, sound design.

Block plays two patients with extremely different conditions. One character has full command of language but cannot move her body freely, and the other can only speak two words, which are her only tools for expressing all her thoughts and feelings.

“In rehearsal thus far, I have gained a much greater understanding of neurological disorders and the people who suffer from them,” she says. “This production has given me the incredible opportunity to experience, albeit in a limited capacity, what it is like to live with a severely debilitating condition, which has increased my awareness and ability to empathize.”

For Kolba, his portrayal of a doctor is unlike anything the veteran College Theater actor has done before. He notes that scenes run from funny to chilling.

“It is a sobering realization that the patients are all based on real people,” he says. “There are people battling these conditions every day. I need to treat the patients differently based on their particular conditions and how well I know them.”

Zafonte points out that the play is based on Sacks’ real clinical studies of various neurological conditions. She notes her readings in a course on the anatomy of vision often overlapped with the play’s subject matter.

“It has been most difficult to figure out how a doctor in France would feel towards and treat her patients and fellow doctors,” she says. “It was important to me not to make the doctor seem like a brilliant and heroic figure because this would be unrealistic. She has as many faults and idiosyncrasies as the patients because all people do.”

Block has been actively involved with theater during her time at Lafayette. She played the role of Johnny in College Theater’s production of The Club, was one of Sweet Sue’s dancers in the Marquis Players’ performance of Sugar, and was one of the Woodstocks in the Marquis Players’ You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She also played Nell from Top Girls in a class presentation during a course in modern drama.

Prior to his role this year, Kolba has been involved in four College Theater productions. He portrayed Eglamour in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Semyonov-Pishchik in The Cherry Orchard, Howard Siegel in Boy Gets Girl, and was part of “The Rest” in You Can’t Take It With You.

Becher previously played the roles of Felicity in College Theater’s production of The Real Inspector Hound, Dunyasha in The Cherry Orchard, and Janine from Top Girls during a Modern Drama class presentation.

Zafonte played the role of Varya in The Cherry Orchard.

Templeton was assistant stage manager for The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and stage manager for The American Dream, The Cherry Orchard, and You Can’t Take It With You. She played the role of Joan in Far Away.

Cohn played the Duke of Milan in College Theater’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Mushnik in The Little Shop of Horrors. For the Marquis Players, he was Sir Osgood Fielding III in Sugar and directed You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He played the role of Prior from Angels in America during a Modern Drama class presentation.

O’Neill, who has had a long-standing interest in the works of Peter Brook, visited his International Center for Theater Research in Paris last year. He recently was the Eugene O’Neill Foundation’s visiting artist-in-residence at Tao House in Danville, Calif.

Categorized in: Students