Concordia’s theater department performed Rhinoceros from February 16th to 19th. Rhinoceros was written by Eugene Ionesco in 1959. The play is done in three acts with four scenes. At the beginning of the play the characters are startled and afraid because there are rhinoceros running around the town. By the end of the play, everyone has transformed into a rhinoceros. The idea behind Rhinoceros is that people conform to society, sometimes when they do not want to. This concept came from Ionesco’s frustration with people conforming to Nazi beliefs during World War II. Even though the play deals with heavy ideas, it is presented with many humorous moments. The play was presented “in the round,” so the audience surrounded the performers. This allowed the audience to be close to the performers and even interact with them. There was a large mural behind the audiences on all sides, but otherwise very minimal scenery and props. The actors wore the same costumes throughout the show, and when they transformed into rhinoceros they wore simple wire masks. Rhinoceros was very well done and managed to present a heavy idea with humor.
Rhinoceros relates to last semester of Honors with the “ways of knowing” and with this semester of Honors. Last semester, we talked about knowing through imagination. Ionesco used Rhinoceros to present his thoughts and frustrations with society during World War II. Using the “way of imagination” Ionesco helps audiences to realize and understand the problems and struggles of social conformity. The ideas in Rhinoceros can be related to this semester of Honors as we learn about the marginalized. At the beginning of the semester we read part of Waking Up White by Debby Irving. Irving described how the way she was raised helped her form racial biases that she was not even aware of. In a way, this is similar to the social conformity discussed in Rhinoceros because Irving conformed to the elite, white society in which she was raised.
I enjoyed Rhinoceros. Going into it, I was a little wary because of various things I had heard about it from people involved in the show. Rhinoceros is part of the “Theater of the Absurd” which strives to provoke the audience with shocking themes, costumes, actions, or sets. I prefer happier musicals, which is why I was wary about Rhinoceros. After seeing the play though, I was glad I had decided to attend. Although the overall message of Rhinoceros was heavy and though-provoking, the play was also very funny. The mural that surrounded the stage and the minimalist sets and costumes were very well done. I applaud all the actors, crew, and directors who put their hard work and personalities into the play.