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Notre Dame play responds to political climate

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - 

A new play opening at Notre Dame Thursday is about people turning into rhinos, but the director says it’s a response to our political climate.

The play “Rhinoceros” was first produced in 1960. It was written in response to the rise of fascism in the 1940s.

Director Abigail Schnell chose the play last September with no idea just how relevant it would be a year later.

“I had chosen it because I was frustrated. These things that were obvious to me didn’t seem obvious to other people. It was a shock to me that the election went the way it did,” Schnell said. “And I think that “Rhinoceros” has a really fascinating explanation of why certain things happen the way they do.”

Throughout the play, people turn into rhinos one by one until only one human remains. Schnell says it challenges people to stand up against conformity by showing the ideas of totalitarianism, and she hopes viewers apply the play to life today.

“I hope they come away realizing the dangers of being afraid,” Schnell said.  “I hope that they come away with a new understanding of why it’s important to stand up against ideas like this.”

She says even with the somewhat ridiculous storyline, she has crafted the play in a way relevant to current political events.

“We use sort of modern symbols that will hopefully read. We have at the end, when everyone has turned into a rhinoceros, the main character has a single monologue where he’s the last person left on earth and everyone else has turned into a rhinoceros. We have blocked it so that all the rhinoceros are on stage while he’s delivering his monologue and they are all holding tiki torches. So that’s a pretty obvious symbol of what we’re going at,” said Schnell.

But even with subjects like totalitarianism and fascism, Schnell says the play is humorous.

“It’s structured literally like a farce and it’s hilarious,” she said. “It has a poignant and thoughtful ending but it’s still funny all the way through.”

The play will continue through October 8 at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on Notre Dame’s campus.

Click here to find more information or to buy tickets online.

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