Theater is coming back to Pikes Peak Community College. Six years after its program was shut down, five students and members of local community theater group Springs Ensemble Theatre are collaborating this weekend on Eugene O'Neill's 1918 play The Rope.
The production is a misanthropic reshaping of Jesus' prodigal-son parable — instead of slaughtering a fattened calf, a father tries to convince his wandering son to hang himself. What the son doesn't know is that the father has tied the family's treasures to the other end of the rope.
Intriguing, no? Well, that's a given with O'Neill, a four-time Pulitzer Prize-winner who also grabbed the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936. He may be best known for his Broadway comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, and many call him America's greatest playwright.
So PPCC is restarting from the top, but that's not to say it's all downhill from here. Within two years, the college — which hopes a theater program will help increase student enrollment and funds — will, according to dean of communication, humanities, and technical studies Taffy Mulliken, open a black-box theater near the Downtown Studio Campus on the old St. Mary's High School property. This building, purchased years ago, will also house classes and performances for music, fine arts and photography.
Also, new faces have been added, notably that of Joseph Hammond as theater department chair. Hammond organized all aspects of the upcoming production, designed lighting for shows and concerts, and volunteers as a member of SET, which is where the collaboration was born.
"It offers a chance for people to see [O'Neill's] less popular work," he says, "as well as offers five actors a chance to do a 45-minute play that has a Twilight Zone ending, [and] play the rich characters that compose O'Neill's work.
"Besides," he says, "We get to hang someone in the play, and that is always something to see."