A group of unruly and existentialist British schoolboys take the Pickard stage this weekend in Masque and Gown's production of "History Boys."
Adapted from British playwright Alan Bennett's "The History Boys," the show explores contrasting educational values and burgeoning sexualities within an English preparatory school in the 1980s.
"I like things that talk about the conception of history, which is what got me interested in the play in the first place," said director Jenn McMorrow '14.
McMorrow found the play particularly compelling because of its exploration of education and its demonstration of the contrast between success-driven teaching and intellectually-motivated instruction.
The plot begins with the arrival of Irwin, the new straight-out-of-college teacher played by Tristan McCormick '13, who disrupts the preparatory school's rigid order. Irwin is brought to the school to prepare the students for the Oxford-Cambridge entrance examinations.
"Irwin tries to convince the kids that they can make themselves attractive to the schools in their ability to think critically and in finding ways to take novel looks at blasé historical events," said McCormick.
The young professor's teaching style differs from that of Hector, the unwavering traditionalist instructor played by Kyle Duncan '12.
McMorrow said she approached the educational theme with the College in mind.
"Bowdoin students, by and large, have thought about the way they want to be educated," she said.
"[Bowdoin] is not really an obvious choice for anyone," she said. "For me, the decision was that I wanted a small liberal arts school where I could study what I wanted to study because I wanted to study it."
Aside from its intellectual exploration of the study of history, "History Boys" also grapples with human sexuality by way of the awakenings and confusions of its characters.
Sexuality and the discovery of sexual identity are, according to McMorrow, topics of discussion that have been taken up to a large extent by Bowdoin and by the current generation.
"It's something students care about," she said.
Directing 12 male students was no easy task for McMorrow, but she contends that the gender imbalance created an energy and rowdiness that contributed to the cohesiveness of the ensemble
"I've been very appreciative of my cast to rally around some of the difficulties we've had in rehearsal," she said. "I'm very grateful for the rapport that they've established with each other because it's a play that relies heavily on the ensemble."
In the spirit of remaining true to the play's setting, the actors will be delivering their lines in "Received Pronunciation," or standard British dialect.
"I wanted to get it to a level that it wouldn't sound blatantly bad and that would make it clear that we were in England. I was more worried about establishing imagery," said McMorrow.
With its emphasis on a mixed ensemble of eager young students, "History Boys" contrasts educational and moral values in its presentation of characters with varied backgrounds.
"The most important thing is to come with an open mind and to know that you won't leave the play with clear labels—there are virtues to everyone and it fleshes out who they are," McMorrow said.
"History Boys" will be showing tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. in Pickard Theater.
Tickets are available at the Smith Union information desk and immediately prior to each show at the Memorial Hall box office. Tickets are $1 for students and $3 for the general public.