Student director gets inspiration from election, IU psychologist

As others grumbled about the partisan bickering and plethora of political messaging during the recent presidential campaign, Lee Cromwell found himself watching the back-and-forth closely.

That’s because the second-year student studying for a Master of Fine Arts at Indiana University’s Department of Theatre and Drama is directing “The God of Carnage,” the Tony Award-winning play that details the painful attempts of two sets of parents to resolve a playground scuffle between their children. Performances begin Friday.

God of Carnage

“The God of Carnage” opens Friday.

“The play is set in a simple environment, but it touches on these epic, global themes of forgiveness, love and relationships,” Cromwell said. “It’s about civility, about being given permission to say what you truly mean and about how very fickle we can be in an ‘us vs. them’ mentality — all of which very much mirrored things happening within the election cycle, and provided a very interesting backdrop to work through this production.”

Another influence came through Brian D’Onofrio — despite the face he hasn’t been on stage since his first-grade role as “The Tree.” The associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, met with the cast to discuss the psychological behaviors motivating the play’s characters.

“We talked about how stress impacts the body, the psychological reactions our bodies experience and what that does to our thinking; and we discussed what science shows about parenting and its role,” D’Onofrio said. “None of the actors have children, which is very central to this performance, so I was able to give insight from both a scientific perspective as a child clinical psychologist who studies families, as well as being the father of two young children myself.”

Cromwell said D’Onofrio’s assistance was “invaluable,” adding, “I literally saw one of our actors light up, and say, ‘I get it now. I know what I’m going to do with this character.’”

Witnessing such an “aha” moment is part of what D’Onofrio enjoys about collegiality on campus, saying, “One of the joys of being at a university is this interaction among different disciplines, particularly because psychology is a science that can help inform so many different fields.”

Cromwell, who said he’s looking forward to Friday night’s opening for “The God of Carnage,” praised the university’s MFA directing program as a “great combination of scholarship and practical experience” that has allowed him to improve his skills as an actor and director.

Tags: , , , , , , ,