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A darker town: CoPA stages Lanford Wilson’s ‘Rimers of Eldritch’

February 6, 2012

Can the skills of a certified personal trainer come in handy when directing a play? If the production is The Rimers of Eldritch, a somewhat experimental piece with 18 characters on stage at all times, the answer is yes.

And as it happens, the guest director for the College of Performing Arts’ upcoming production of Rimers is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer. It’s an ideal skill set, says Holly Derr, who holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University and has directed and taught at UC Riverside, Smith College, Marlboro College, and the American Repertory Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.

Director Holly Derr in early rehearsals with some of the cast for 'Rimers of Eldritch.'

“What I have always been most interested in is bodies in space and telling stories through movement,” Derr says.

She was eager to direct the Lanford Wilson play because the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright emphasized movement and language over plot when he wrote Rimers, she says. The play focuses on the characters of a decaying Bible-belt community splintered by a murder trial, rape, gossip and bigotry, but ultimately it is the portrayal of a town. Not until the conclusion does the audience learn who’s been murdered or who’s standing trial. It has been called a dark Our Town.

“That’s unusual for an audience to watch a play where the story is not the central thing. It’s the life of the town,” she says. And it’s possible that at the end many in the audience will still be mulling over the plot and perhaps even confused. “Which is what Lanford Wilson intends,” Derr says.

The Rimers of Eldritch plays at Waltmar Theatre on Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 16-18, and Thursday through Friday, 23-25, at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2 p.m. performance Saturday, Feb. 25. Tickets are $20 general admission; $15 for seniors and students; $10 pre-sale and $5 rush with Chapman ID. Tickets may also be purchased online.

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