Heller Theatre presents 'Time Stands Still,' on the after-effect of war
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Friday, January 25, 2013
1/25/13 at 1:09 PM
The closest that Kristin Harding has ever come to being in a war zone is when she talks with her brother.
"He's a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps, and he's currently in Afghanistan," said Harding, who plays a combat photographer whose injuries have brought her home in the Donald Margulies' play "Time Stands Still."
"That's one reason why doing this play hits close to home with me, because of his situation," Harding said. "But I knew I wanted to get a better understanding what it is like to be a woman, and to be a photographer, in that situation."
A bit of searching on the Internet put Harding in touch with Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall, a retired Air Force combat photographer living in Virginia.
"She was a little suspicious when I first approached her," Harding said, "but in the end we ended up talking for a couple of hours. And even though the character I play is a civilian, otherwise what happens to her is almost like hearing Stacy talk about her life."
In "Time Stands Still," which Heller Theatre opens Friday, Harding plays Sarah, a freelance journalist specializing in covering wars. She's just been shipped home from Iraq after being severely injured by a roadside bomb.
Her partner in work and life, James (played by Will Carpenter), is wanting to get out of the business of chasing wars around the world. But for Sarah, being on the front lines is too important to her.
"It's far from being a 'war play,' although war is an important part of the background of these characters," said Frank Gallagher, the show's director. "Margulies' focus is on the people. There's one exchange where Sarah is asked if what she does as a photographer is really going to make the world a better place. And her answer is, 'It has to.' That's because this is what she's committed her entire life to doing."
That commitment, Harding said, is as much to the environment in which Sarah works as the work Sarah does.
"In spite of her injuries, she wants to be back there on the front line," she said. "It's like an addiction - that adrenaline rush of surviving in an impossible, chaotic place, of finding that perfect second to capture what you see in front of you.
"That's something Sgt. Pearsall talked about - the way that being in war can change you so profoundly that you need to have that chaos," Harding said. "Post-traumatic stress disorder isn't necessarily about the flashbacks people have to when they were in war. It's about dealing with the present and wondering what the future might hold."
One potential future for Sarah and James is presented through the other couple in the play: Richard (Tim Hunter), who is an editor for Sarah and James, and his latest paramour, a much younger woman named Mandy (Beka Buster).
"They're the couple who seems to be coming together just as Sarah and James are seeming to come apart," Harding said. "Mandy is there, I think, to remind people what innocence is, someone who believes that happy things still happen. James and Sarah look at the world in a very different way."
"Richard has made a very definite choice not to follow the life Sarah and James have any more," Gallagher said. "He wants something more simple - a home, a wife, a sense of continuity."
For Gallagher, doing a play like "Time Stands Still" is very much outside his own comfort zone.
"I like the more theatrical, even abstract kind of plays - I just did 'The Skin of Our Teeth' with the kids in Clark Theatre," he said. "It's been a long time since I've directed a realistic play - the kind with 100 props, that takes place in a very carefully described, very specific space and time."
What's made the process of putting "Time Stands Still" into motion easier has been the commitment of his cast.
"Kristin and Will obviously came into the auditions with a great understanding of the play," he said. "They were so sharp in their auditions, it was like watching a stage-ready performance."
Even so, Harding said: "Sarah is one of the most complicated characters I've ever played. She's dealing with so much, and it has to be revealed so slowly. She has this very hard exterior at the start, and I'm hoping that people will be able to see there is something softer behind that facade Sarah tries to maintain."
‘TIME STANDS STILL’
presented by Heller Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday,
Tuesday and Feb 1-2. 2
Where: Henthorne PAC, 4825 S.
Tickets: $7-$10. 918-746-5065
and at the door
Original Print Headline: Play looks at war's effects on civilian
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
James, played by William Carpenter, comforts Sarah, played by Kristin Harding, in the play "Time Stands Still." STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World