By Jessica Landman
Purple lights illuminated the square stage. The platform had a covered grand piano in the back. In the foreground were seven chairs facing the audience with a thin binder placed neatly atop each one. In front of the chairs were music stands. An eighth chair, the narrator’s chair, was set apart from the others on the right side of the stage. This chair and stand were turned so that it faced toward center stage.
Dr. Shawna Mefferd Kelty, associate professor of theater at SUNY Plattsburgh, emerged from a door on the left of the stage and welcomed the audience and provided background on the play as well as introduced the cast.
“Something for the Fish” is a play written in 2016 by Emily Krause. The play was performed at Plattsburgh’s Krinovitz Theater March 2 and in downtown Plattsburgh at Chapter One Coffeehouse March 3.
Both performances were staged readings, meaning that the story is portrayed through the use of voice acting alone, with no props, no line memorization, sets or costumes. The plot depended solely on the actors’ voices, tones and facial expressions.
Despite the lack of storytelling devices, this cast was able to produce an in-depth, emotional play that drew the audience into the story.
“The talent was amazing, and that really enhanced it,” SUNY Plattsburgh student Lucy Allen said. “This was my first time listening to a play that was kind of just a reading. I enjoyed it and I almost felt like it was the full experience.”
The actors were able to draw the audience in like it was a traditional play. Overall, the play was well-rehearsed and cohesive.
The preparation for a staged reading is significantly shorter, with this cast working on the play for only a few weeks compared to a full play that takes upward of six months to prepare.
According to Kelty, the all-female and non-binary cast faced some difficulties in the learning process of a staged reading, as most have never done something like this before.
“We have to stage the stage,” ReGina Sutphen, the actor who plays Jack and Evie, said. “Instead of working on our lines, instead of really building these characters, we kind of try to embody them while we’re just speaking, and it’s different.”
“Something for the Fish” is set in a small fishing town with a focus on the sea and the changing patterns of the fish. The townspeople rely on fish for sustenance, as the sea is their only source that produces enough food for everybody. There were changes, however, in the water that made it too briny for fish to live.
The story begins when protagonist Pat dreams about a fish that leaves the harbor because it was choking on salt. Pat’s dream throughout the play provide a sense of foreboding and dramatic irony as the one person in the play who no one listens to knows the cause of the town’s problems.
The story also follows a group of three girls: Anya, Mary and Evie. They feel as though they don’t belong in this town of like-minded people. Their ultimate goal is to escape the small town and find a place where people are allowed to think differently.
At the end of the play there is “the storm of the century,” during which the girls get trapped in a cave near a cliff that leads to the sea. There, they have their final transformation, turning into birds and flying far away from the town they were so eager to escape.
Amy Ward, the actor who plays Thomas and Mary, said, “It’s about the transformation and knowing there’s something more out there.”
Beneath these plotlines of a town slowly starving and girls changing into birds, there is a theme of climate change and human impact on the environment.
According to Lydya Felix, the actor who plays Simon, the play was meant to open the audience’s eyes about the world around them and encourage them to have “empathy for the environment and the animals, because we don’t know their story unless you have dreams like Pat.”
Krause made a play that kept the audience engaged with the story, with plenty of plot twists to keep it interesting while imparting subtle hints about the environment and how humans hurt the world around them for personal gain.