This past weekend, Homecoming Weekend visitors had the chance to enjoy this year’s Peace Play Contest winner, “Party Favors” written by Cary Pepper, at Umble Center on Friday-Sunday, Oct. 7-9.“Party Favors” centers around an independent candidate, Malcolm Wilkes, played by Jonah Yoder, a sophomore business major, as he attempts to run a clean campaign amidst the pressures of the foul play that naturally accompanies modern politics.
The head of his independent party sends Stuart Severet, played by junior theater major James Lang, to encourage Malcolm to take whatever path it is that ensures him victory, whether or not that includes sabotage and deceit.
Stuart and Michelle, played by Brianna Herndon, a first-year theater and art double major, dig up what they call a “gotcha” on Malcolm’s political adversary, Pete Haley, with whom he had promised to run a clean campaign. When the path to deceitful yet victorious end of the campaign is presented to him, Malcolm must question if his desire to win is really worth reverting on his decision to run a fair campaign.
Rachel Buckley, a sophomore theater major, played Lisa, Malcolm’s campaign manager and fiancé. The play was directed by theater professor Anna Kurtz Kuk, who is in her first year at Goshen. Pepper, the playwright, was also on campus for this homecoming weekend to watch the show and speak in several classes.
“Having Cary Pepper on campus for the weekend really enlightened how I saw the play,” Kuk said. “I also enjoyed watching him interact with the students… he was able to share a great deal of his expertise.”
“Party Favors” also comes at an opportune time, given the hype around the current presidential election.
“Cary wrote this play around the time Obama was getting elected for the second time,” said Lang. “This was sort of his political commentary.”
Lang explained that one of Pepper’s goals in this peace play was to highlight the level of media propaganda and mud-slinging that influences our nation in respect to politics.
“Malcolm is really trying to believe there is good in times such as these, that there is a third way,” Lang said. “He really wants to win, but not with fire. In a more civil way.”
“It was hard to identify with Stuart,” Lang continued. “Mostly because he’s such a slimy guy. I just hope I was able to portray how wrong and misleading the media, and social media especially, can be today.”
Yoder, however, found it relatively easy to identify with his character, Malcolm.
“His ideas are very close to mine and, I think, a lot of the rest of America’s,” he said. “We want the parties to work together instead of against each other; we want people to run clean campaigns that are about the issues and not about slandering the other person.”
Lang also touched on how much he enjoyed having Kuk as a director for this play. He described her as a director who did very well at balancing both quirkiness and seriousness throughout the process, as well as really pushing her actors and actresses to think deeply about their characters and their backstory.
“This being my first year, there was no better way for me to become acquainted with the students and the program,” Kuk said about the experience. “I was greatly impressed by their work and am excited to get started on the next project!”
“Party Favors” was chosen as one in more than 40 different submissions for the Peace Play Contest, which has entered its 34th year. The next one-act will be put on in 2018. The deadline for scripts is December 31, 2017.