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The Lycoming College theatre department will present a performance of Caryl Churchill’s “A Number” by area theatre troupe The Actors’ Group on Friday, Nov. 1, at 9 p.m. in the Mary Lindsay Welch Theatre. The play will be directed by N.J. Stanley, associate professor and chair of theatre at Lycoming, and is free and open to the public.
“A Number” was written in 2002 when the possibility of cloning had suddenly become a genuine reality. As the play begins, a daughter confronts her father with the shocking information that she has genetically identical counterparts and is merely one of “a number” of clones. But cloning is only the play’s backdrop; Churchill is much more interested in a penetrating, timeless inquiry into the nature of identity, the age-old debate between nature versus nurture and the very substance of love. When “A Number” premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre, The Telegraph said, “What a tremendous play this is, moving, thought-provoking and dramatically thrilling.”
The play quickly becomes a mystery in which the main character, Salter, muddles together truth and lies about the past while his cloned daughters try to piece together what really happened as the result of some doctor’s reckless experiment. Or is there another explanation? During the course of the play’s action, Salter confronts his first child and two of her clones. In a theatrically interesting twist, the playwright requires the same actor to play all three daughters.
For this production, the role of the daughters will be played by Amy Rene Byrne, who has an M.F.A. in acting from West Virginia University and has taught at Zane State College and the Columbus Children’s Theatre in Ohio. Byrne previously played the role in an Actors’ Group production in June. In a Sun-Gazette article, Byrne said, “This script is so challenging and is written as we speak, so it is difficult to memorize the fragmented speech and mannerisms of three very different characters.”
Performing with Byrne will be Tom Ryersbach as Salter. Ryersbach co-founded the Actors’ Group with his wife, Jeane, in the summer of 2007. He is a longtime Community Theatre League member, who has directed productions including “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Stanley, who teaches acting, directing, theatre history and dramatic literature, has directed more than 50 productions across the U.S. She earned an M.F.A. in directing from Florida State University and a Ph.D. in theatre and drama from Indiana University. She first worked with the Actors’ Group in 2009 when she directed Harold Pinter’s “Old Times,” which included Ryersbach in the cast. She also directed Ryersbach in “Ages of the Moon” for the Actors’ Group in 2010, and he performed as Mr. Peachum in her production of “The Threepenny Opera” last fall at the College.
Lycoming College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. Its rigorous academic program, vibrant residential community and supportive faculty foster successful student outcomes. Lycoming offers 36 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1812 and located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation. For more information, visit www.lycoming.edu.