Playwright and actor Sam Shepard wrote the play Curse of the Starving Class in 1978 but in the words of Wesley Eccleston, a professor with the TRU theatre arts program, it is still relevant because “families still struggle with the (same) challenges.” Eccleston directs the production, which starts Feb. 28 at the Actors Workshop Theatre in Old Main.
The characters are part of the Tate family, a dysfunctional American family where the dad, Weston (Michael Hogg), spends long periods away from home and comes back drunk and aggressive while son, Wesley (Justin Hall), pees on the floor of the kitchen, daughter Emma (Allison Clow) plans her escape and mother Ella (Alley Barton) wonders how to work it out and go to Europe.
“These characters are starving for the things they think will make them happy,” Eccleston said.
There is a fifth character as well, the empty fridge. Its roll makes the audience think of hunger but “as the characters learn, they have hungers that are greater than just feeding the belly,” Eccleston said. “They are emotionally starving, psychologically starving, intellectually starving, spiritually starving. All the characters are hungry for something that is beyond that.”
For Allison Clow, a third-year arts student majoring in theatre who plays the role of daughter Emma, this is her first time acting in the Actors Workshop Theatre program.
“There are some funny moments out of these serious issues,” she said, such as the relations between sister and brother or mother and daughter.
The music in the intermissions intentionally includes covers of ’70s classics originally from Neil Young, Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd but played by current amateur artists on YouTube.
“Just as this is a cover of the original production,” Eccleston said.
The play has an unusual learning experience for the students as well, the presence of a living animal on stage, a lamb, gives the students a sense on “how to deal with an unpredictable element,” Eccleston said.
For the audience, there will hopefully be some learning as well.
“[They] will have a chance to see a family making wrong choices and hopefully they will go away and they will make the right choices,” Eccleston said.
The play is going at the Actors Workshop Theatre (Old Main) from Feb. 28 to March 2 and from March 7 to 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.
This was originally published on the independent student newspaper The Omega, while I was a Journalism exchange student at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in 2013. You can read more about this experience on my Spanish blog #fromkamloops. Read the article online on The Omega’s website or the print version on Pinterest. The pictures are available on Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.