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“Life is full of strange absurdities…”

Six Characters… go in search of an author at IPFW

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader


Pirandello ain’t easy.

And Six Characters In Search of an Author might be one of his more… challenging plays.

These days, the 1922 play is credited as one of the finest examples of “The Theater of the Absurd” and an early example of “meta-theater,” where the conventions, tropes and “inner-workings” of the genre are self-consciously acknowledged and referenced. And Luigi Pirandello’s work (he wrote around 40 plays, plus novels, short stories, and poems) was appreciated during his lifetime, garnering the author the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934.

But it took a while for the world to catch up with Six Characters In Search of an Author. During its premier, the author had to sneak out a side door to avoid a baffled and angry crowd. The play got a far better reception in other places, but still, for a long while, Six Characters… could be counted upon to divide theater-goers pretty evenly. You either got it, or you didn’t.

IPFW’s Department of Theater’s production of Six Characters In Search of an Author begins its run on December 2nd, and a modern audience — an audience to whom “meta” references in television and movies are second nature — will find a lot to enjoy.

The “plot” is pretty strange. A troupe of actors rehearsing a Pirandello play is interrupted by six characters walking onto the set. The characters are confused and a little desperate; they explain that they’ve been “abandoned” by their author, the threads of their stories left dangling. They ask the director to help them finish the job. Intrigued, the director starts trying to sort out the story these characters have been given and adapt it to the stage, to the increasing frustration of the characters, who don’t appreciate the restrictions their roles place on them, or how their story gets simplifed…

Compounding everything is the fact that the story these characters have wandered in from is seems to be pure, over-the-top melodrama.

But the plot isn’t really the point of Six Characters… The play is about the way people are “trapped” in their own stories and their own perspectives, and the difficulty in communicating our experiences to others. In the words of one character: “Each one of us has within him a whole world of things, each man of us his own special world. And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.”

Heady stuff? Maybe. As we said, Six Characters In Search of an Author is a challenging play is some aspects. But it’s also a great showcase for Pirandello’s with and insight, and its prescient themes of identity, the roles we take on in different aspects of our lives, might make Six Characters… more relevant today than it ever has been.


IPFW Department of Theater presents Six Characters in Search of an Author

Fridays December 2, 9, at 8 PM
Sunday December 4 at 2 PM
Thursday December 8 at 8 PM
Saturday December 10 at 8 PM

Studio Theatre in Kettler Hall
2101 E Coliseum Boulevard

Tickets: $5 IPFW Students/ High School Students/Children Under 18; $16 Adults; $14 Seniors/Faculty/Staff/Alumni; $12 Groups of 10 or More
$12 Other College students with ID
Children under 6 will not be admitted.

Patrons are encouraged to call in advance to reserve tickets. Please arrive early. Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of management or at intermission.

IPFW Box Office
Purchase Tickets Online
By Phone or in Person
TTD: 260-481-4105
Monday – Friday, 12:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Located in the Gates Athletic Center Room 126

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