Monday, February 26, 2024

“Mi estis amata”: A review of MTSU’s rendition of “The Language Archive”

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Featured Photo by Harry Whitmore

Story by Stephanie Hall

Middle Tennessee State University Theatre and Dance hosted their production of “The Language Archive” by Julia Cho.

“The Language Archive” follows George (played by Caleb Heath), a linguist who works to document dying languages, struggles to use his own language to share his feelings. As he struggles to convince his wife, Mary (played by Bailey Dorflinger-Slee) that he loves her, he fails to see the feelings that his lab assistant, Emma (played by Ivy Rolfson), has for him.

Performed in the Anderson Studio Theatre, the theatre had the audience set up in a box, surrounding the stage. With risers on two opposite sides and a row of chairs on either side, the audience watched the characters from all angles.

The set allowed the audience to be up close and personal to the characters. As George was reading one of the mysterious notes he found, some audience members could read over his shoulder. When Mary faced away from George as she cried, she seemed to connect with the audience.

With this set came some downsides, as when the table was being brought on and off stage, it made difficult to hear if something was being said. However, I am glad the stage was arranged this way. It felt as if you were getting a different perspective of the story depending on where you sat. Sometimes the characters would be facing away from you and you only could hear what they were saying. And sometimes they were right in front of you and you could tell everything they were feeling.

With such an intimate theatre, the actors made sure to stay in character even as they were walking past the audience to the make-shift backstage.

Alta (played by Taylor Hulse) sits by Reston (played by Llewyn Beaver) as he is in the hospital. (Photo by Harry Whitmore)

One of the best performances of the night was of Resten (played by Llewyn Beaver) and Alta (played by Taylor Hulse), an elderly couple who are the last speakers of Elloway. Beaver and Hulse play amazingly off of one another, portraying a sweet and humorous couple that had the audience laughing all night. From their introductions, the two stole the show with their humorous arguments- in English- and their sweet proclamations of love- in Elloway.

The show was beautiful and immersive experience that encouraged it’s audience to lean in and enjoy the show.

In act 2, George teaches the audience words from esperanto, created by ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof in 1887 and intended to be a universal second language for international communication. All of which relate to love.

“Mi estis amata,” meaning “I was loved.”

As we learn, the words are shown on the television screens around the room. The screens were used throughout, showing cartoon backgrounds for all of the scenes. While the cartoon backgrounds felt a little out of place in the show, I felt that the screens were used very well. Especially towards the end when different languages on both the screen and recordings repeated the same line: “I love you.”

“The Language Archive” was an incredible show that invited the audience to lean into the story and the characters and listen to the language of their hearts.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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