By Susana Gómez Báez
The Ryerson Theatre School (RTS) celebrated its 40th anniversary this weekend, accompanying the presentation of June Havoc’s play.
Marathon ’33, based on Havoc’s life, explores the journey of Americans during the Great Depression who, desperate for money and food, join a marathon where they are asked to dance until they collapse.
Marathon ‘33 is a blend of many genres — it falls shy of a musical, since the music does not drive the plot, but it also takes elements from drama and comedy. The show runs February 8-15.
Anyone that has ever watched a dance competition on television – like So You Think You Can Dance, for instance – has heard the expression “dancing for your life.” It’s used when contestants are about to be eliminated and so they must give one last performance to convince the judges that they deserve to remain on the show.
But what does it really mean?
During the 1930s, marathoners danced continuously for over a thousand hours, with only 10 minutes of rest every hour. They danced for their lives – literally.
Marathon ’33 is a crude representation of life back then. But according to the director, Ivica Boban, the issues that the play raises are still relevant in society.
“It is a fascinating fact that the world June Havoc talks about has many similarities with the world we live in today,” Boban said in her message to the audience in the play’s program. “[It] shows that a seemingly innocent dance competition can reveal all different layers of misery and humiliation with unavoidable glitter of celebrity entertainers, showmen, producers, as well as all additional phenomena that feeds the audience’s hunger for other people’s pain.”
The play tells the story of the dancers’ lives putting themselves through the challenges and pains of the competition. But it is also a story of friendships and growth of the individual with a variety of complicated characters ranging from a pregnant girl to a married couple.
RTS produced a two-hour reproduction in which the actors had to juggle singing, dancing, and acting, showcasing the flexibility and variety of talents.