Plays tap deepest recesses of mind

Dean Bevan had a dream.

Queen Victoria was visiting a women's commune in Africa. She was baffled by the whole concept and questioned its necessity. Her tour guide, a nice young State Department official, explained that the facility was designed to free women from dependence upon males.

The queen said, "Yes, but where are their husbands?"

The quirky dream became the first scene in Bevan's one-act play, "Allegory."

"It is a play about our difficulty in keeping up emotionally with cultural change," says Bevan, a retired Baker University English professor. "I feel like we understand what's going on, we can explain it, but that doesn't mean we deal with it very well.

"I think the red state-blue state phenomenon reflects people's differing abilities to process cultural change and to welcome it or not welcome it. Everyone wants what's best for the country, but they can't agree on what that is. I'm not talking about politics, but about culture."

"Allegory" is one of four plays on the program of E.M.U. Theatre's "Museum of Abstract History: Exhibition of One-Act Plays," being staged this weekend and next at the Lawrence Arts Center. Also on the bill is another script written by Bevan, called "Haunted," and two plays by the Manhattan Experimental Theater Workshop, a collaborative theater project for high school students in the northeast Kansas town.

Past Event

Museum Of Abstract History

  • Friday, March 17, 2006, 8 p.m.
  • Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence
  • All ages / $6

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While trying to understand the commonalities between the scripts and develop a name for the presentation, E.M.U. Theatre members agreed that all the plays were pretty abstract and took place on a different plane.

"It's very much about reaching into the unconscious to find those shared cultural symbols, many of which are blatantly obvious ... and others of which might be a little more surprising," says Honey D. Hallock, executive producer of "Museum" and director of "Allegory." "These symbols become artifacts."

In keeping with the cerebral theme, Bevan's "Haunted" tackles humans' relationships with their psyches by untangling a ghostly love triangle. The playwright once heard an expert on National Public Radio say that ghosts are real, but people invent them. Usually they stay inside one's head, Bevan explains, "but this is the stage, so we can bring the departed into the living room."

The ghost in the show is one-third of a love triangle who returns to straighten out the discord between a husband and wife.

"One of the interesting things about the play is the way it allows characters to do something everybody sometimes wishes they could do," Bevan says. "You can ask questions and get answers that you never managed to get while the person was living."

Here's a look at the other two shows on the bill:

¢ "Genesis: A Deliberate Distortion" follows Erin, who is caught up in artistic visions of Adam and Eve (and a certain snake name Felicia). Will she bring her creation story to fruition? Will it be a blockbuster? Will Erin learn the truth, or at least how to make her own coffee?

¢ In "Degradation of a Curator," examination of a painting before the audience reveals an unfamiliar landscape and figures caught in an unfathomable moment of horror. What can our identification with the image mean? Does it spring from our collective unconscious, some universal memory or fear? Can we know our own sense of justice, or is it just so many brushstrokes for the next viewers to decipher?

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