Talley’s Folly sets out to make a splash in theater

The St. Olaf Theater Department will kick off its 2015-16 season with a staging of Lanford Wilson’s 1979 script, Talley’s Follly. The script won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that year and is the second part of Wilson’s Talley Trilogy.

The romantic comedy takes place over 97 minutes of real time in an old boathouse near Lebanon, Miss. There are no intermissions and no scene changes. Instead, the play’s stars, Francesco D’Aniello ’16 and Jenna McKellips ’16, will have to carry the show in over an hour and a half of non-stop performance.

The play takes place on the night of July 4, 1944. The show features only two characters: Matt Friedman (D’Aniello) and Sally Talley (McKellips). The play’s action follows Matt’s uninvited arrival at Sally’s home in an attempt to court her, much to the chagrin of her Southern conservative family. Over the course of 97 minutes, their conversation varies between many topics, from love to war to just about everything in between.

“Because the play is set during World War II, I did a lot of research about that context, as well as the World War I events that also influenced the action of the play,” Becky Raines ’16 said. “It was written four years after the end of the Vietnam War. It’s interesting to see that it has all of these connections to the big three wars of the 20th century and a lot of the similar questions that occurred in United States culture after each of those wars.”

Talley’s Folly is directed by Professor of Theater Karen Wilson ’77 and assistant directed by Emma Downey ’16. Wilson and Downey have had to work closely with the actors given the show’s intensive demands and brief production period.

“They’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into this. I think it’s the shortest rehearsal schedule we’ve ever had to put up a show,” Downey said.

As if 97 minutes of dialogue was not enough of a challenge, the script calls for both actors to speak in accents. Matt speaks with a German-Jewish accent and Sally with an Ozark accent, but both must be done with a personal touch:

“The accents in the play are actually idiolects, meaning that they are personal to each character, as opposed to a more general dialect,” Downey said.

Talley’s Folly is not only ambitious in its demands upon the actors; bold choices have been incorporated into the shows design. Because there are no scene changes during the show, the set must be able to hold its own for the show’s entire duration.

Perhaps this is why the risk was taken on making the play’s boathouse setting as realistic as possible by having a 10-square-foot pool of water on stage for the boat to sit in. Keep in mind that they actors will have to be able to get into this boat during the play, hopefully without falling off or capsizing.

Lighting design for Talley’s Folly is done by alumnus Jake Roberts ’14, with Raines assisting him. Roberts and Raines previously worked together in these roles for the Theater Department’s 2014 spring production of Oh What a Lovely War.

All folks involved in the technical side of the production have had to work closely with each other to ensure that the show can continue uninterrupted without a hitch.

“It’s a very collaborative play. It’s 97 minutes without a break, so everyone needs to be on their A-game to make it as easy for the actors as possible and also to hold the attention of the audience,” crewmember and soundboard operator Sam Getka ’18 said.

Talley’s Folly runs six shows from Oct.1 to Oct. 4., at 7:00 p.m. every night, in addition to 2:00 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are available at the box office of the Theater Building.