The Arsonists

Barnard Thesis Festival I, April 2016
Minor Latham Playhouse
The Arsonists by Max Frisch
Directed by Jordie Askins
Scenic Design by Christina Tang
Lighting Design by Lhana Ormenyi
Sound Design by Mateo Tate-Contreras

The Arsonists was my and Jordie’s senior thesis show. Written by Swiss playwright Max Frisch in the late 1950’s, it is a darkly humorous parable illustrating man’s complicity in the systems that harm him most. Biedermann, our hapless protagonist, is a bourgeois Everyman whose willful ignorance allows arsonists to move into his attic. The results are as expected (i.e. BOOM).

When it was first produced in Frisch’s native Switzerland in 1961, The Arsonists was interpreted as a critique of post-war attitudes towards fascism (namely, turning a blind eye). By setting our production in the present-day, we hoped to inspire similar reflection on modern society.

Costumes and scenery did a lot of the leg work in establishing Biedermann as nouveau-riche and happily so. His home is deliberately tacky, inspired by cookie cutter McMansions and Ethan Allen catalogues. The arsonists’ domain, the attic, encroaches on the Biedermann’s living room just as the arsonists themselves do.

Photos by Stephen Yang.

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