UB Humanities Night to feature O’Neill’s ‘The Hairy Ape’

A play in which the terrible weight of self-consciousness cannot be borne

Release Date: February 16, 2015 This content is archived.

“Those who have joined us in previous years have a sense of how enjoyable and intellectually stimulating the evening promises to be. ”
Erik Seeman, director, Humanities Institute
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo Humanities Institute will host Humanities Night on March 7 at 8 p.m. at Torn Space Theater, 612 Fillmore Ave., with a performance of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape,” whose resounding theme is the tragic effect of industrialization and technological change on the worker.

Torn Space Theater is the resident theater company of the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle, the oldest continuously operating theater space in Buffalo, and home to the city’s last surviving Polish library.  

The play, directed by Dan Shanahan, will be preceded at 7:30 p.m. with a theater talk by Sarah Bay-Cheng, UB associate professor of theatre and dance.

Tickets can be obtained at a special reduced price of $15 by emailing Jinhee Song by Feb. 25.  Tickets will also be available at the door on a cash-only basis. The Mickiewicz’s full bar will be open before and after the show and during intermission.

The evening will be hosted by Erik Seeman, director, and Elizabeth Otto, executive director, of the UB Humanities Institute. Seeman says, “Those who have joined us in previous years have a sense of how enjoyable and intellectually stimulating the evening promises to be.”

“The Hairy Ape” is an impassioned 1922 expressionistic work that articulates the trials of a member of the underclasses: “Yank,” the brutish commander of a ship’s stokehole. Yank is dim-witted but happy and complacent until he collides with social forces much stronger than himself. This disrupts his previously unshakable unity with industrial civilization and makes him aware of being embedded in an overwhelming and oppressive superstructure from which there is no escape.

The play is a modern tragedy that extends beyond themes of bourgeois exploitation, however, to consider the terrible consequences of alienation from the natural world.

The show will open March 5 at Torn Space and run through March 29.

Bay-Cheng is a professor in the UB Department of Theatre and Dance where she directs the undergraduate program in theater and graduate studies in theater and performance. She is an author, editor, critic, performer and director who specializes in modern drama, contemporary performance and theory, and intersections of technology and performance.  She is the founding director of UB’s Technē Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies.

The UB Humanities Institute is one of the most important entities supporting the humanities in Western New York. Through scholarship, colloquia and conferences  it has, since its founding, promoted the sharing of perspectives and served as a forum for conversation among humanists in all disciplines.

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