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‘Cloud 9’ opens at IU Theatre tonight


Sudents perform during the play "Cloud 9" on Wednesday at the Wells-Metz Theatre. Matailong Du Buy Photos

A story spanning the journey of a family from British colonial Africa to 1970s London will be told this weekend as the IU Theatre presents Caryl Churchill’s “Cloud 9.”

Performances will take place Friday, Saturday and Dec. 10-14 at 7:30 p.m., with an additional show at 2 p.m. Dec. 14. All performances are at the Wells-Metz Theatre.

“Cloud 9” premiered in England in 1979. Churchill won a 1982 Obie Award  for the work.

Nearly 100 years pass between the show’s first and second acts, yet only 25 years pass in the story.

“Originally, it was supposed to be set in 1979 and 1954, but they found that the way that people acted in 1954 was better accentuated by putting it back into the Victorian era,” Rob Heller, the show’s director, said.

“Cloud 9” employs unique characterizations as it explores themes of gender and sexuality. Females frequently portray males and vice versa, and all of the actors take on completely new roles at the beginning of the second act.

Joshua Krause, a second-year master’s student in acting, plays family patriarch Clive in the first act and Clive’s son Edward in the second. He said he didn’t find it difficult to differentiate between his roles considering the vast differences between the two men.

“It’s been a wonderful journey finding what Edward has taken away from his childhood and what it was like to be parented by Clive,” Krause said. “I’m the father creating the son, and I get to play both of them when they’re about the same age.”

David Gordon-Johnson, a junior theatre and vocal performance major, said the cast spent a lot of time learning the details of their roles.

“During our first week of rehearsal, we did a lot of very specific movement and vocal work with the professors in the department to find what each of the characters was in terms of voice and body,” he said.

Cast member Nichole Eberle, a senior theatre and drama major, said she was originally nervous about creating two different characters, but her fears have since disappeared.

“It was all about finding the similarities between them,” she said. “Now at this point, it’s natural for me.”

Along with character switches, the moods of the two acts have tones that couldn’t be more different, said Heller.

“In act one, they lie a lot and they’re masked and they’re hiding behind manners and duties and what you’re supposed to do, whereas in act two, they say everything they feel and think,” he said of the characters.

Despite the difference in societal attitudes toward sexuality in the Victorian era and the 1970s, some of the story’s same problems persist after the time jump.

“This play gives us hope but no answers,” Krause said.

The content of “Cloud 9” forced the actors to explore and speak about their personal feelings regarding topics that are not widely discussed in society, something Gordon-Johnson said he found very challenging.

“We had to figure out where we as people and as actors stood in terms of our comfort with ourselves and these different topics before we could really delve into the truth-telling of the play,” he said.

He said he hopes audiences take away a message of acceptance of personal

“I want them to take away the idea that you have to live and be in the circumstances that surround you because try as we might, the world doesn’t really change to fit us, we change to fit it,” he said.

“You have to journey forward with what you’re given,” Heller added.

Follow reporter Rachel Osman on Twitter @rachosman.

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