“The Fourth Wall” offers postmodern examination of theatre

Staci Poston, Assistant Editor

Francis Marion University’s Theatre staged a production of A.R. Gurney’s “The Fourth Wall” from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19.

Associate Professor of Theatre History Dr. Dawn Larsen directed the play with the assistance of C.J. Miller, who served as dramaturge, someone who assists with the research and development of a play.

The play was performed by a small cast of only four FMU students:  Matthew Adkins, Michaela Gentry, Jessica Coleman and Daniel Price.

Coleman, a junior majoring in English, played the part of Peggy, the character around whom the play revolved.

“Peggy functioned as the ‘real’ character in the play,” Coleman said. “She tried to bring everything back to ‘reality.’ She tried to make connections with the other characters as well as the audience and the people beyond the wall.”

In theatre terms, “the fourth wall” refers to the concept of an invisible wall or barrier that exists between the audience and the play itself. When a character recognizes and speaks to the audience, they “break the fourth wall.”  This play examines this concept in a postmodern way – the characters on stage are aware of how their lives resemble theatre, and they must attempt to work past this fourth wall in some way.

Peggy arranges her living room as if it were a stage, with the furniture facing an undecorated fourth wall, where the audience of the play actually sits. When characters come into the living room, they begin to feel and act as if they are in a play.  By the end of the play, Peggy is able to break out of her own personal wall and the fourth wall of the stage in order to walk out of the theatre to pursue her passion.

“It’s about how we all have these barriers within ourselves and outside ourselves that we really have to break through,” Larsen said. “They can be literal barriers or metaphorical barriers, but if we can break through those, then we can connect with each other and see how similar we are to each other.”

Larsen said that the performance on Thursday was sold out, and both Friday and Saturday were well-attended.

“The audience surprisingly received the play very well,” Coleman said. “The participation was a lot better than I expected. I’ve heard only good things from people who saw the play.”

The next event that the Francis Marion Theatre has planned is “An Evening of International One-Acts,” which will take place on Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hyman Fine Arts Center Theatre.