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Facing the big question in Reasons to Be Pretty

Derek Leonard ’19 as Greg and Eliza Kate Leiter ’20 as Steph in Neil LaBute's Reasons to Be Pretty.

It’s a struggle to maintain fulfilling love relationships, friendships and jobs.

Although some will not want to admit it, Courtney Dorn ’18 says actors and audience members may be able to find some of themselves (or others) in the Theatre Arts Department’s production of Reasons to Be Pretty which ran September 26–Oct. 1 at The Playhouse.

In Reasons to Be Pretty, Greg’s tight-knit social circle is thrown into turmoil when his off-the-cuff comment about a female coworker’s pretty face and his own girlfriend’s lack thereof get back to her. Greg’s best friend, Kent, and Kent’s wife, Carly, enter the story and the four friends must all face the question: How much is pretty worth?

Reasons to Be Pretty, written by Neil LaBute, was his first play to reach Broadway in 2009 and earned a Tony nomination for Best Play. Theatre Arts Department Professor and Chair Jay Oney directs Furman’s production of the play, a show that has special meaning for him.

Friends have to face the question, “How much is pretty worth?”

“I first saw LaBute’s work in 1996 when my National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) seminar group attended his three short Off Broadway works, Bash: Latter Day Plays, featuring Paul Rudd and Calista Flockhart. The performance was very powerful,” recalls Oney.

Oney was one of the members of that seminar to contribute an article to Neil LaBute: A Casebook (ed. Gerald C. Wood) in 2006.

“LaBute, who taught college himself early in his career, was fascinated by the playwrights of the English Restoration (1660-1685), and updated those earlier writers’ techniques to require his audiences to reexamine their own morals based on the play they had just seen,” said Oney. “Reasons to Be Pretty, for all its humor and Midwestern slang, presents characters who have trouble being good people and asks us if we are really better than those characters.”

As students worked to bring those characters to life, they too struggled with some of their characters’ idiosyncrasies.

“Steph, my character, is really difficult to portray because she is a high energy character who has a whole lot to say. I’ve really enjoyed trying to find Steph’s state of emotional being, but it has also been one of my most challenging obstacles,” says Theatre Arts major Eliza Kate Leiter ’20 of Marietta, Ga. “Steph is a character who says what she thinks and doesn’t stop to wonder if she should or not, which is very different from myself.”

While it offers plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, the play also explores serious issues, especially for college-age students.

“As the title hints, the play takes on the issue of image in relationships, in society and how we react to images. In the past few years, discussions about image have certainly gained momentum, especially with body image,” said Dorn ’18, a theatre arts major from Spartanburg. “I hope people walk away thinking about image and how it affects our everyday relationships.”

Oney describes the play as “compact, explosive, very honest and a great opportunity for young actors to show their range.”

Courtney Dorn ’18 as Carly

“Our cast, by chance, contains one freshman, one sophomore, one junior and one senior. It’s a pleasure watching them blend together and learn from each other,” he said.

Cast members include Derek Leonard ‘19 as Greg, Eliza Kate Leiter ‘20 as Steph, Mike Caterisano ’21 as Kent and Courtney Dorn ’18 as Carly.

The crew includes: Tess Kamody ‘19, stage manager; Alyssa Ciurlik ’18 and Claire Shea ‘20, assistant stage manager; Matt Middleton ‘19, Clark Spillane ‘18, Andy Golla ‘20, Chris Sessoms ‘18, scene shifters; Anne Morgan ‘19, makeup design; Connor Courtney ‘18, prop design; Clark Spillane ‘18, prop crew head; Chelsea Helton ‘19 and Chloe Rawlings ‘21, prop crew; Rachel Gifford ’18 and Lee McCaskill ‘20, box office; Cammi Stilwell ‘20, Elizabeth Budinoff ’18 and Caroline Schrum ‘21, wardrobe; Drake Shadwell ‘18, costume design; Alan Smith ‘20, light board operator; Beth Fraser ‘20, house manager; Patrick Fretwell ’19 and Karsen Green ‘19, publicity; Chris Sessoms ‘18, master electrician; Dayanari Umana ‘18, Jamie Riedy ‘21, Andy Teye ’19 and Charlotte Lucas ‘21, Clare Beth McConnell ’21 and Elizabeth Budinoff ‘18, lighting crew; Elli Caterisano ‘18, sound design; and Katie Fleet ‘18, sound board operator.

For information on upcoming shows, visit the Furman Theatre online or call the Theatre Box Office at 864-294-2125.

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