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Bishop Ireton’s The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

This fall, Henry David Thoreau leaves Walden Pond to take center stage in the current Bishop Ireton main stage production, “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.” A little-known play written by the same playwrights who brought us “Inherit the Wind,” “Thoreau” presents a challenge for Ireton with its transcendentalist and political themes, but it’s certainly nothing the talented cast, crew, and costumers can’t handle.

In essence, the play acts as Thoreau’s live-action biography. The drama centers around the jail cell in which Thoreau famously spent one night for refusing to pay his taxes. As he befriends his fellow inmate, Bailey, he begins to relate to him certain events in his life. Through a series of flashbacks, we see Thoreau after finishing Harvard, where he refused to pay the $1 tuition, to follow the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, open a Transcendentalist school, mourn an accidental death, baby-sit Emerson’s son, Edward, do Emerson’s handiwork, and eventually get arrested when he flat out refuses to pay taxes that support the current war on Mexico.

Even though the play is historical in context, the director and the cast are working hard to make sure it relates to modern times.

"Thoreau lived with such passion and enthusiasm that it makes his teachings universal,” says Matt Szemborski, a senior who plays Thoreau, “Everyone can learn from him."

Indeed, Thoreau’s love of nature can certainly influence our modern society to be more environmentally-friendly. The play sends a political message as well. Thoreau’s anti-war protests and criticisms of the president are comparable to those that concern the war and president of today.

The cast is very excited about the play. “The play is extremely well-written, so it presents these very complex, intellectual ideas in a very entertaining and intriguing way,” Matt said.

In order to act out these ideas for the audience clearly, the cast delves deeply into character analysis. “Everyone has gone to great lengths to research and really understand not only their individual characters, but how they interact with one another,” Emily Marquet, a senior who plays Emerson’s wife Lydian, says of the cast, “It's been a wonderful ensemble process.”

Meanwhile, the crew and costumers work diligently on the sets and costumes, paying special attention to detail. “We’re trying to make [the costumes] as historical as possible,” says junior Andrea Borrelli, who is a costume designer. Their excitement about showcasing their fabulous work in the show is apparent.

“We're all working really hard on the set and it's going to look amazing, so come see it!” Mary Keegan, a junior on stage crew, says enthusiastically.

“It’s gonna be awesome,” Andrea adds with a big smile.

The amount of hard work and dedication that have gone into “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” will most certainly pay off this November when Ireton presents yet another high quality drama.