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‘Best acting I have ever done’ – Webster actors reflect on F451 performance
The Webster Conservatory’s production of Fahrenheit 451 ended the show two weeks ago with a sold out audience.
Fahrenheit 451 is about the personal struggle of a fireman, Guy Montag, who lives in a society that burned books because of the danger of how the written word can influence society. Montag is not sure what to believe and what to do until he meets Clarisse who has a different approach to society. Montag gets in a risky situation when trying to seek the truth in his society.
One of the main characters in the show was Captain Beatty, played by senior acting major Vivienne Luthin. She said this role was one of her best performances at Webster.
“I think the hope is that every time I do a show, I’ll say that it’s the best acting I’ve ever done because it’s better and better and better, but this show is a huge step up for me in playing something that wasn’t me,” Luthin said.
This is the first show at Webster that Luthin played a lead character. She said the character Captain Beatty is very blunt, strict and says what he means. Luthin said she was kind of scared to go to that dark place where you are not happy all the time and that it was a struggle to deal with because the character is evil.
Luthin said that it is her first role that she wanted to play at Webster, but she was also worried that she would not fulfill the character.
“I knew that I wanted to play it and I knew what the character was in my head, but physicalizing it and actually doing the part totally scared me because I knew it was a part I had to work hard at,” Luthin said.
Becoming the character
Luthin said she watched videos of women in the military to get ideas of her character . She said she uses quotes from books in the play to capture Beatty’s intellect. She said she had to find an unapologetic side of her to capture the Alpha male and do it as a woman playing a male role. For Beatty, she said, she had to keep eye contact with another person until they look away because Beatty is a character that has masculinity and power.
Luthin said it is fun to play a character that is not her and she feels like Beatty is a costume that she gets to put on. Luthin said Beatty is manipulative and says things in an evil way that she doesn’t agree with but Beatty’s perspective can make the audience think for themselves. She said she gets through things by smiling and being supportive to others and Beatty is not like that at all.
Alongside Luthin, senior and acting major Harrison Farmer plays the another lead role in the show, Guy Montag. Harrison said he knew he wanted to play Guy because he wanted to play a character unlike any of the other characters he’s played before.
“As Harrison, I can listen to some of the stuff that was written down [in the book] and catch all sorts of stuff and it can ignite a lot of thoughts,” Farmer said. “But for Guy, he’s on stage almost the whole time and he’s listening to almost everything, but he doesn’t really get why books are important until almost the very end of the play.”
Farmer said Guy has different viewpoints of society and and that he sees things in a simpler way. Guy doesn’t show vulnerability but when he does, it’s his way of what vulnerability is. Harrison said it is the complete opposite of who he is as a person offstage.
Farmer said that he got sick before the weekend of the show and he got lost within his character. He said he knew his part well and how to tell the story, but he was not sure how his performance went even though he said he received compliments on it.
“I didn’t get a chance to sit and think, how is the audience taking this in, what are they thinking of it, i just had to go to the next thing,” Farmer said. “I was going through the motions while the other half is living, trying to live in each moment. I was able to gauge what I was doing rather than how I was perceived.”
Tim Ocel, an adjunct faculty and director in the conservatory said the crew rehearsed for five weeks. He said even though they had 25 hours of rehearsals a week, the actors were excited to have ideas for the play.
Ocel said the play has a political spectrum that attacks the anti-intellect and it criticizes the politically correctness on why books are burned. He said that those two ideas were the main causes for the books being burned, and he said the actors were willing and prepared to go through ideas for the play to clarify the plot.
Ocel said the script is not easy to understand because it has a high vocabulary in some places like in a particular scene with Captain Beatty and Guy Montag.
“Beatty and Montag have a duel but it’s kind of like they were dueling with swords but they were dueling with quotes.” Ocel said. “It’s like ‘I don’t know what they are saying to each other, so in rehearsals we have to break it down.’”