Summer Youth Theatre's 'The Visit'

Kill Schill?

For 15 years, Vortex Repertory Company's Summer Youth Theatre has been not patronizing kids. On the contrary, this program has historically chosen challenging and significant material for its participants to tackle, works ranging from Bertolt Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan to Sophie Treadwell's Machinal. In keeping with tradition, this year's production will be Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit, a play written in 1956 about vengeance, greed, and a morally bankrupt world.

Summer Youth Theatre provides a theatre experience to youth ages 13-17 for free. After auditions and interviews, a group of teens are selected for the Summer Youth Company, which spends seven weeks working on all aspects of the production, from set construction to publicity to performance. Adult actors play certain parts so that the young artists can work side by side with professionals. This year actress/composer Content Love Knowles (Dark Goddess, Sleeping Beauty, "Time Alphabet") plays a role at the center of Dürrenmatt's play: a woman who returns to her hometown and presents its impoverished citizens with a sickening ultimatum.

The Visit is eerily poignant. Listening to it, one hears discussions of desire masquerading as need, of power masquerading as goodwill. The citizens cry, "There is no reason for our poverty; we suffer from a mysterious blight." So the wealthy Claire Zachanassian offers the townspeople a large sum of money on one condition: They must murder her former lover, the town's beloved shopkeeper, Anton Schill. Although the citizens are initially horrified by her demand, The Visit charts their slow crawl toward justification. Even Schill's family is warped by the desire for cars, fine furs, and French lessons.

Taylor Flanagan, a spunky girl sporting a faux-hawk, is playing the town's professor and playing the role as it was originally written: for a male actor. She is not intimidated by the task at hand. Her past roles have included Quince and Falstaff. "I've been typecast as an old man," bubbles the 17-year-old.

When asked about The Visit and its complex themes, Flanagan doesn't bat an eye. "The play is very important for the time we are in right now. After 9/11, suddenly there was this idea of spying on your neighbor. But if you take away one person's rights, who's next? These townspeople want their rights upheld, but they don't mind taking away Schill's. I guess that's how it is in wartime. Everyone is thinking about life and death and what they would give up in that situation."

So Taylor and her cohorts fearlessly move forward with this mature material. Their energy and ferocity make it worth your while to get over to the Vortex and listen to a 50-year-old play that still has teeth.

The Visit runs July 21-30, Thursday-Sunday, 8pm, at the Vortex, 2307 Manor. For more information, call 478-LAVA or visit

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Vortex Repertory Company, Summer Youth Theatre, The Visit, Content Love Knowles

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