As a new academic year draws closer, students are loading their belongings back into boxes, restocking on sticky tack, and wrapping up their internships. We’ve caught up with some of our student’s summer accomplishments, but what have their professors been up to?
Peter Friedrich, assistant professor of theatre at Millsaps College, was busy taking on four variations of one role in the off-Broadway revival of Madeline George’s Pulitzer finalist The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence at New York City’s Chain Theatre. The play takes place in 1879, 1889, 1931, and 2011, while the characters move back and forth between time periods.
Friedrich played the Watsons, which comprised of the sidekick to Sherlock Holmes (who we already know and love), telegraphist Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant (of “Watson, come here” fame), the Watson artificial intelligence system that bested Jeopardy! in 2012, and an affable but ambitious help-desk “Dweeb Team” member.
Friedrich received a strong review from critic Roger Gonzales, who wrote, “The jump from scene to scene, changing gears, and taking on new story lines and moments, is handled with authenticity and a level of ease not suited to many actors. But for Friedrich, there is a level of connectivity between the characters that he is able to convey that gives the performance depth. Each character is unique, but you can sense the connection between them.”
The show had a successful run, but the real climax came on its final Saturday, when a blackout hit New York City and submerged the actors and audience into darkness. While the blackout caused most concurrent shows to cancel their performances, one audience member took out their phone and shone its flashlight onto the stage. Those around him quickly followed suit, and actor Christopher Dippel proceeded with his monologue to raucous applause.
The cast went on to deliver a memorable second act in the light of the phones. It is common to hear performers comment on the strength of an audience after a show and discuss whether they felt connected to those watching their hard work unfold. Undoubtedly, this group brought new meaning to the phrase, “good audience.”
Friedrich looks back on the experience with great joy, saying, “It was already a big love affair with the cast and crew—we had all bonded for weeks, and were having a ball with the audience and each other. Then the blackout show came, and things went next-level. Jean’s direction was probably the best I’ve had. Chris and Claire are immensely talented actors, and took me as the one out-of-towner under their wings. Years ago, Chris helped pioneer the theatre form 30 plays in 60 minutes, which is an incredible coincidence and opportunity for our Millsaps Players—we will have them come to campus before our next Major Havoc.”