MSU Theatre Department debuts “At Home at the Zoo”

Get ready for a three-person play. Yep. That’s right. Minnesota State’s Theatre program is debuting “At Home at the Zoo” this week, and it features just three actors. 

“At Home at the Zoo” is a combo of two different Edward Albee plays: “The Zoo Story” and “Homelife.” 

The play opens with “Homelife,” which provides a candid look at Peter and Ann’s troubled marriage, their ruthless communication attempts and the loneliness they experienced while living together. “The Zoo Story,” a 1959 play by Albee, is the act that sees the tension rise. At Central Park, a man by the name of Jerry approaches Peter and starts telling him tale after tale while probing deeply into Peter’s life and attempting to grab the park bench for himself. 

Director, Casey Ring, said he chose this play because it spoke to him. 

“It’s a story about a man who thinks he’s got his life completely figured out and then is pointed out to him by a couple of different people that, in fact, he’s living kind of a passionless just get by existence,” said Ring. “He’s forced to really question the things that he holds dear and what he has been taught and conditioned. That kind of concept really speaks to me. The idea that maybe what we’ve been taught — or that we’ve learned what’s important — isn’t, and that what we should be doing is seeking out our passions and the things that excite us.” 

One of the actors, Ryan Sturgis, plays Jerry, the stranger Peter meets in the park. Sturgis said he has wanted to play this role since he was an undergraduate. He got the opportunity to play Jerry due to a lack of actors available. He has done other small roles in shows, but nothing this big of a role. 

“I’m actually not a student here, but my wife is a professor in the theater department, and there weren’t other male actors available because there’s a really big show going on at the same time,” said Sturgis. “Jerry has aspects about him that are just very uncommon for normal human behavior, and being able to tap into that and the philosophy behind people who can’t act normally and connect with people on that sort of polite level is fascinating to me.” 

Sturgis said he enjoys playing Jerry and has a lot of fun playing this different character. 

“He’s very empathetic in the sense that he can read people, and he can pick up on their cues socially, and he’s almost creepy in the sense that he can figure out what people are thinking and understand their history and their background,” said Sturgis. “At the same time, he doesn’t really know what to do with that information. There’s a lot of special nuances that come with playing a character like Jerry because he’s so different than your average person.” 

“At Home at the Zoo” opens at 7:30 p.m. March 22 and runs through March 25 in the Andreas Theatre at the Earley Center for Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 regular, $9 for seniors ages 65 and older and children under 16. MSU students get in for only $5. 

Students can find ticket information by either going to the box office located in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center or going to the MSU Theater website. The box office hours are 4-6 p.m. 

Header Photo: Pictured above, a snippet of the dress rehearsal for “At Home at the Zoo,” the latest theater production put on by the department. The show is a combination of two plays: “The Zoo Story” and “Homelife.” (Photo Courtesy of The Department of Theatre and Dance)

Write to Lauren Viska at lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

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