“The ‘D’ World Book” to Premiere April 25 at the LSU HopKins Black Box
BATON ROUGE – From Darwin to Durante, davenport to ducking stool, delta to dustbowl, a dizzying array of D’s are featured in a play based on the “D” volume of the “World Book Encyclopedia” of 1959. Integrating drama, dance and dialogue as well as film and photographs, the play premieres at the LSU HopKins Black Box theatre, 137 Coates Hall, on Wednesday, April 25, through Saturday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 29, at 2:30 p.m.
Immediately following the Sunday matinee, Michael Rohd, of the MFA Directing and Design Programs at Northwestern University and Artistic Director of Sojourn Theatre in Portland, Ore., will offer a public response to the show. For all the performances, donations will be accepted at the door.
Adaptor-director Ruth Laurion Bowman recalls that she chose to develop the play because “the ‘D’ encyclopedia was my favorite volume in the set my dad purchased in the late 1950s. It had beautiful color plates of dogs, dresses and dolls, and it was skinny and easy to hold as compared to the gigantic “C” or “S” volumes. My affection increased when our dog, a dachshund, chewed part of the binding. It’s a kind of memento, I guess, inciting memories of family and also how we did research as kids, how we came to certain knowledge, by looking up stuff in the encyclopedia.”
As is the case with encyclopedias, the various entries or scenes of the play are written by diverse contributors. Bowman solicited colleagues, friends and family members from across the nation to select a “D” entry and adapt or write about it in creative ways, for the stage, without however losing the encyclopedic perspective and language entirely. The result is a multitude of “D” subjects written in the form of short poems, skits, stories, anecdotes, essays, song, dance, films and other projections.
“The scenes include a little drama about dogs, a poem of the delta, a dance that explains double stars, songs of drink and dessert, a spectacular visit to a department store, duck and cover defense exercises from that Cold War period, and a look at the depression of the 1930s as it relates to our own recent recession,” Bowman said. “We also found several entries in the 1959 encyclopedia that talk about now obsolete equipment, including the differential analyzer or ‘magic brain’ – otherwise known to us as a computer – and we’ll have some fun with that.”
The play then ruminates on historical and technological changes between the late 1950s and today in an entertaining and largely amusing manner.