To celebrate the opening of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the Department of Theatre and Dance hosted a Victorian “Hyde” Tea to give audiences a first-hand glimpse at the world of the play’s characters. Director Naomi Buckley (Class of ’00, B.A., theatre arts) and the cast welcomed guests to the dark side of 19th century Great Britain, when the wealthy were obsessed with imposing British mannerisms upon the world, despite the prevalence in their own country of poverty and deprivation.
Guests enjoyed a variety of teas and traditional British desserts, including scones and chocolate cake with fruit, as served by Let’s Do Tea. Conversation flowed as guests had the opportunity to interact with the cast of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” who attended in character. Guests had a great time conversing while soft melancholic music played in the background. After the tea party, guests settled into the theater seats to hear an exploration of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Victorian world that shaped them, presented by Buckley a lecturer in theatre arts, and Michael Buckley (Class of 01′, B.A., English), a lecturer in the English department.
Naomi Buckley gave a biographical overview of Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author who wrote the novel, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” with a look at his early years, including his father’s opposition to writing as a career. She also discussed Stevenson’s marriage to Fanny Osbourne, who was a great supporter of his work, and their life in Samoa, where Stevenson died in 1894.
Buckley says that the tea party was born out of a desire to give audiences a chance to connect with the theatre department and its productions.
“I’ve always believed (as the English do) that going to the theatre should be an event and not just another evening,” she says. “It’s more entertaining to watch a piece that you know a little about and perhaps where you even have met some of the actors.”
Buckley, who has a Master of Fine Arts from Mountview Academy in London, also hosted the “Gentlemen’s Opening” reception with wine, English ale, cheeses, and other delicacies typical of a Victorian reception before the opening night performance on October 14.
“My stay in London influenced this piece because it gave me a deeper understanding of British culture which I have been able to share with my cast as well as hopefully infuse into the fabric of the show,” she says.
Michael Buckley, who earned his MFA from CSU Long Beach, focused on the cultural, social, and economic history of Victorian England that provides the backdrop for “Jekyll and Hyde.” Buckley engaged the audience with the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), during which she was the first British monarch to be photographed. Great Britain was known at that time for high expectations of class and manners. In addition, the study of the poor was an obsession to those of the higher class.
Buckley described the Brick Labyrinths, impoverished neighborhoods in London, where most “unfortunates” – a euphemism for prostitutes -resided. Buckley added the myth of Jack the Ripper, whose rage towards humanity manifested itself in the lives of the unfortunates as he murdered them in a grotesque manner.
In the Victorian mindset, unfortunates were not seen as human beings but rather as creatures. Buckley also spoke about the Victorian theory of opoppometry. The British believed that opopponometry would tell if a person was good or bad based on the measure of the person’s body. The theory developed into physiognomy, which influenced popular beliefs regarding race and evolution at that time. Victorians believed that through physiognomy, they could see sin in a person’s face.
Buckley says that the monstrous physical appearance of Mr. Hyde was indicative of these beliefs. Mr. Hyde resembles an ugly appearance physically but is also characterized by his illicit actions.
“He is the one that shows sexism and racism as the dark side of England along with [London’s] failure and poverty,” says Buckley.
Buckley recently published his first book, “Miniature Men,” a collection of short stories. He says that his stories were influenced by characters like Jekyll and Hyde.
“The themes informed the stories I wrote with duality and [the] edifice of the true-self hidden away inside a fake self,” he says.
Graduate student Mark Kerr (Class of ’07, B.A., theatre arts), is working on his master’s degree in psychology. He says that the story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a study of “the face we show to society.”
“People walk around wearing a mask,” he says. “We struggle with our inner beasts and ideas but never conquer our demons and sit around… with mental disorders. Today this affects us. We have to seek a cure.”
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher for the stage. The play opened Oct. 14 in the Edison Studio Theatre at CSU Dominguez Hills.
Three other performances are scheduled: Oct. 21, and 22 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 for students and seniors, and $12 for general audiences. Group rates are also available. To purchase tickets, contact the box office at (310) 243-3589 or click here to buy online.
Jennifer Lopez is a freshman majoring in criminal justice and a student employee in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.