Viewers take stage with actors during ‘An American Daughter’

SU theater students exhibit a strong sense of character as the audience watches them perform at a close distance.

Showgoers gathered quietly in Shippensburg University’s Memorial Auditorium on Saturday evening and were whisked into the world of Dr. Lyssa Dent Hughes during SU’s Theatre Department practicum performance of “An American Daughter.” 

The audience was seated in an intimate fashion — up close to the performers and on the stage. Murmurs chirped in the audience before the show started since many never experienced viewing a performance on stage before. 

As the show commenced, violin orchestra music filled the air and the lights were dimmed low. 

A mere 2 feet away from the front row, a living room scene was prepared and transported viewers into the foreign yet familiar world of the play. 

“An American Daughter” followed the life of Dr. Lyssa Dent Hughes and her husband, Professor Walter Abrahamson, as Hughes fought to keep her nomination of U.S. Surgeon General. The couple’s friends Dr. Judith B. Kaufman and Morrow McCarthy made appearances throughout the show to support and also tear down Hughes. Quincy Quince, a budding author and former student of Abrahamson, threatened the stability of Hughes and Abrahamson’s marriage in the form of a scandal. 

“An American Daughter” managed to give audience members a woman’s perspective in politics. Double standards rattled Hughes’ brain and forced her to play the wicked game of politics as it meshed with the eye of media. Hughes had to fight for her validity as a candidate, while still remaining true to what she believed in when a small mistake and remark became public. 

The timeless nature of this play made it seem like it could have been taking place in present day or 20 years ago. 

The banter between characters was strong and fiery and the actors played up their unique characteristics. 

Sparks flew on stage between Hughes and Abrahamson, despite Hughes being in the dark about what Walter was really feeling. 

Quince fired off cold retorts at Hughes — one after another — trying to tear her down where it hurt the most. Quince also flaunted her beauty and brains in front of Abrahamson and questioned the validity of Abrahamson’s happiness as a husband and a father — driving an ironclad wedge between Hughes and Abrahamson’s marriage. 

Abrahamson, a seemingly supportive husband, wavered in his faith and support for Hughes throughout the show. In the beginning the chemistry between the two was undeniable, but chemistry was simply not enough when Abrahamson made Hughes’ plummeting reputation about him. 

Kauffman’s persona as a dedicated oncologist and faithful Jewish woman was exceptionally raw and emotional, particularly when she faced her infertility issues head-on with confidence and resilience. 

Charlotte “Chubby” Hughes, the wife of Hughes’ father, was a sliver of sunshine. Chubby offered advice dripping with sincerity to Hughes and her darling Southern accent was a source of unwavering goodness. 

The quote “Our task is to rise and continue,” becomes Hughes’ mantra near the end of the show. 

When the lights came on to signal the end of the production, the audience cheered with pride. Leaving the stage, those in attendance chatted with their family and friends — raving about the excellence and professionalism they witnessed in a practicum course performance.

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