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The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman Theatre Introduces World Premiere of “Screentime”

On Feb. 20, Furman Theatre will premiere “Screentime: A Modern Commedia,” an original play by Theatre department professor Margaret Caterisano.
Savannah Jones

Furman Theatre is rehearsing for the world premiere of “Screentime: A Modern Commedia,” a new play by the department’s own Margaret Caterisano, Professor of Costume Design.

The play, directed by Alan Bryson, follows Arlene and Zoee, who are employed at Dolores’s PR firm and are spending the weekend running a convention for the firm’s client. Dolores is Arlene’s aunt, which creates problems for Arlene as she attempts to find balance between business and her personal life. As the play unfolds, mischief, romance, and technology collide to create more chaos.

“Screentime” is a commedia dell’arte, which is an Italian theatrical form popular in the 16th through 18th centuries characterized by its emphasis on ensembles, masks, stock characters (also known as character archetypes) and improvisation to tell a comedic story.

“This is (Caterisano’s) brainchild and we get to be a part of the beginning of it,” Paige Hemmer ‘25 said, who plays Celine and Scapin.

The company has had the unique opportunity of influencing changes to the script. Houston Hearn ‘27, who portrays Briggie and Brighella, said that being able to work with the playwright has made the production “a much more involved process.”

Caterisano said that she appreciates the thoughtful criticism she has received on the script.

“Part of what made the story so attractive to me was the extremely quirky behavior of the characters in the story,” Caterisano said. Her biggest challenge with combining commedia with modern characters was fighting the urge to update the traditions. She added, “In spite of what progress humans have (or haven’t) made from the mid 16th century until today, human beings are basically still self-centered with an extremely persistent urge to survive.”

As a commedia, the show requires a lot of energy. In one scene, the masked characters chase one another before the lazzo – a comedic physical bit within the story – comes to an end and the masks are removed and the story continues. Hemmer describes the lazzi as moments of “uninhibited silliness” that have helped her leave rehearsal feeling energized.

The show also utilizes improvisation, which has led to the actors discovering new moments with each rehearsal. “I’m really excited to see what it’s going to be like when we have a real live audience,” Hearn said. Alysha Matthews ‘24, who plays Arlene and Arlecchino, said audience members should “come ready to laugh and interact.”

“Screentime” also marks Alan Bryson’s first time directing, although he has several years of experience as a technical director and in other roles. “The entire company’s dedication and efforts and buy-in to the project have made this a wonderful and easy first time directing,” he said.

The story deals with topics such as workplace boundaries, sexism, sexual harassment, and power dynamics. Despite some of the interpersonal conflicts that arise, cast members hope that the audience can sympathize.

“Sometimes the way people act is influenced by the way they grew up,” said Allison Dewberry, who plays Dolores and Dottore. “I hope (the play) will feel like we can recognize these people as our friends, our family, our colleagues, and forgive ourselves for not being perfect,” said Caterisano.

Another unique aspect of “Screentime” is that it allows the audience to decide the ending by voting via applause. Hemmer, who presents the audience with their choices, said, “As an actor, it’s incredibly fulfilling and even cathartic to be the one playing this role,” Hemmer said. “I’m super excited to see which choice people clap for!”

“Screentime” runs from Feb. 20 to 24 at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on Feb. 25. The show is a CLP, and tickets are only $5 for Furman students. Tickets are on sale now.

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About the Contributor
Savannah Jones
Savannah Jones, Arts, Campus, and Culture Editor
Savannah Jones is a junior Sociology and English Writing major. She has worked with The Paladin since the fall semester of her sophomore year. She loves being able to report on the latest riveting Arts, Campus, and Culture happenings and guiding the next generation of talented Paladin writers. When not buried in books or hunched over her email inbox, she enjoys forcing her loved ones to watch cat videos and movies she enjoys. 
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