Theater Students Offer Behind-The-Scenes Look at Oedipus Rex Before Opening Night


(Left) Cast of Oedipus Rex: Alex Ryan (back, left), Dante Hayes, Alexander Torres, Akia Garcia, Brandon Calhoun, Khamari Hamblin (front, left), Uwimana Liverpool, and, Kristian Nunez. Photo by: Frank Borrelli. (Right) Flyer promoting production. Photo by: Uwimana Liverpool.

Uwimana Liverpool, Arts Editor

December is finally here, which means the semester is almost over. Bur for AIC’s theater program, the beginning of December means that opening night is just around the corner! This year’s fall production is a modern-day version of a classical Greek tragedy–Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Many students are excited to see this and to finally be back in the theater, watching live performances again. The play opens this Thursday, December 2, and runs through Saturday, December 4. There will be a performance on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening, each at 7pm. You can reserve tickets by calling 413-654-1486.

The thought on everyone’s mind seems to be, “How do they do this?”–to which actors and actresses respond “Hard work!”

But what exactly does that “hard work” entail? This story features a behind-the-scenes look into the upcoming production of Oedipus Rex, with quotes from the director and actors themselves.

(Left) Cast of Oedipus Rex: Alex Ryan (back, left), Dante Hayes, Alexander Torres, Akia Garcia, Brandon Calhoun, Khamari Hamblin (front, left), Uwimana Liverpool, and, Kristina Nunez. Photo by: Frank Borrelli.
(Right) Flyer promoting production. Photo by: Uwimana Liverpool.

Frank Borrelli is the Associate Professor of Theater Arts, the Division Chair of Communications and the Arts, and the Assistant Dean of Student Support and Experiential Learning. He teaches courses in theater and directs all productions that take place at AIC.

Every play Borrelli chooses serves as a reflection of what is currently happening in society. So what exactly made him choose Oedipus? “I believe it speaks to the level of excessive pride in our world,” Borrelli said. “Oedipus exhibits the same pride that blinds him. We’re living in a world that begs us to question the truth–in our news, from political officials, from the public and private sectors. I also believe Oedipus has parallels to Trump in terms of his pride.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the last play produced was another Greek tragedy, Euripides’ Medea. During that production, Borrelli situated the audience on stage with the actors. In this year’s production of Oedipus, there’s a limit of forty seats for each performance. When asked about this staging decision, Borrelli responded, “We’d like to produce a studio piece of theater in an intimate setting to retell the story of Oedipus in a way that’s more personal and accessible to a twenty-first-century audience.”

Opening the stage to the audience may provide the audience with more intimacy during the performance, but how does the cast feel about these decisions?

Alexander Torres (left) and Dante Hayes. (Frank Borrelli)


Alex Ryan reviews the script. (Uwimana Liverpool)


Dante Hayes (left) and Frank Borrelli discuss staging ideas. (Uwimana Liverpool)

Alexander Torres, a senior who majors in theater with a minor in communication, plays the lead role of Oedipus. Being the lead comes with great responsibility, and may require a lot of research. In an interview with Torres, he said, “Oedipus as a play is regarded as one of the greatest plays, and I believe there is some merit to it.”

If you are unfamiliar with the play, Oedipus is a character who stabs out his eyes after he discovers that he has killed his father and unknowingly married his mother. “It’s an interesting play,” Torres continued. “Disgusting, yes, but it teaches how the Greeks handled society. I find the cultural aspect of the play interesting.”

For both Torres and Borrelli, Oedipus Rex is a play of cultural significance and contemporary relevance. However, how does one take this information and use it to guide their embodiment of a character? Torres explained, “I think Oedipus as a person means well, but he’s blinded by his ego and hubris, which makes it difficult for him to see the issues that are right in front of him. This alone is the real tragedy of the show.” Torres also discussed the work he does to create characters. After researching, he uses the lines of the play to find the subtext of the characters’ intentions, thought processes, and more.

This method, though it may work for Torres, is not the only way to find or understand a character.


The actors’ scripts. (Uwimana Liverpool)

Dante Hayes, a senior who majors in theater, plays the character Creon. Creon is a consultant to Oedipus. He’s also the brother of Jocasta, Oedipus’s wife (and mother), which means Creon is also Oedipus’s brother-in-law–and uncle. For Hayes, Creon is “Shiesty because he recognizes what’s wrong with Oedipus and doesn’t do everything in his power to negate it or find a solution to the problem.”

When asked about his thoughts and process on creating his interpretation of Creon, Hayes said, “We are pretty far apart, and we’re different types of people. He’s related to the queen and king, so we’re also in different classes. Outside of that, we both see the faults in people. Creon is one of the first people to see Oedipus’s faults at the beginning of the play. In that sense, we are alike in our sympathy.”

Whereas Torres uses subtext to create a character, Hayes uses the similarities and differences between himself and his character to better understand his character.

Khamari Hamblin, a freshman who majors in theater, plays a supporting role in Oedipus Rex. With only a little theater experience in her background, being a theater major is a major undertaking for Hamblin. “At first, it was lonely being the only freshman in the theater program,” Hamblin said. “But now it’s like history being made. In middle school, I wanted to be an actor, but I was laughed at because you ‘need money to be an actor.'”

Still, Hamlbin did not let that stop her from finding the spotlight. “From eighth grade to now I have tried my best to be in productions to work on my skills,” Hamblin said. “In eighth grade, I was Zazu in The Lion King Jr. In ninth, I was Papa Ge from Once On This Island. Now I am here at AIC doing this performance.” Besides the very open and supportive cast, Hamblin’s source of support is namely Frank Borrelli.

When asked about memorization techniques, Hamblin explained, “Repetition is one of the memorization techniques that I used because it helps get the lines in my head. Then I add emotions with the lines. I found this technique with Frank as well. It started when I would have a difficult time remembering the lines in my head because I have ADHD and I overthink things and I can’t really control it. But when he showed me, it kept me focused on just that character–which worked!”

Hayes made use of a similar memorization technique. Hayes stole his technique from Torres because this method “doesn’t feel like you’re memorizing a lot, but little chunks.” Hayes explains that the technique is to “break your monologues into sections and practice them individually.” Hayes is a senior and Hamblin is a freshman, but the two make use of similar techniques for memorization. Clearly, age and experience are only part of what goes into one’s ability to perform adequately.

According to the interviews from Torres and Hamblin, age does not have an impact on the relationship between students and their professor either.

Hamblin explained, “Working with Frank is different from what I’m used to. Frank encourages me to look at things from different perspectives. He would ask questions that I really have to think about in order to answer, like, ‘How would you reveal something through your movements?’ or ‘How would this person sound during the time of the play?'”

In a different interview, Torres expressed his experience through his four years with Borrelli. “Working with Frank is very educational,” Torres said. “I think he’s a person that teaches patience and dedication. He’s very passionate and enforces how to have a discipline for your passion.”

Judging from the interviews of Hamblin, Hayes, Torres, and Borrelli, Oedipus seems to be a very exciting and educational play.

Hamblin concluded, “The play is going well,” but admitted thing have been “just crazy in the start and crazier now since they play is this week. But the cast is powerful together. With tech week coming up, I feel really confident.”

Hayes, in his own interview, explained his thoughts on the production. “I think it’s coming together pretty well and it’s a diverse set of perspectives and generations. That all adds value to creating something our audience has never seen before.”

Do yourself a favor and check out the theater department’s production of Oedipus Rex this Thursday, Friday, or Saturday! Call the number 413-654-1486 to reserve seats by leaving your name, how many seats you want and the day(s) you want!