501 CSW theater production: The Big Knife

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 501st Combat Support Wing have joined forces to stage a production by the community, for the community.

The Big Knife is an American play written by Clifford Odets. Set in the mid-20th century, Charles Castle, a prominent fictional movie star and the main character, must decide whether to sign a new contract with an agency or leave it all behind.

“It’s a moral prose story,” said 1st Lt. Antony Vorobyov, 501st CSW project officer and director of The Big Knife play, “It’s about the decisions that we make, the consequences of those decisions and how they impact the people around us.”

The cast and crew for The Big Knife consist of 10 actors, five crewmembers and two stagehands. The play is sponsored by the 423rd Force Support Squadron, with Lt. Col. Jarvora Duncan, 423rd FSS commander, as the executive producer. Dawn Ryder, the community center director, is a producer for the play.

“One of the best things about the military is that we get people from all walks of life,” said Vorobyov. “Our entire cast and crew is made of members of the 501st CSW community, specifically here at Alconbury and Molesworth. We have active duty Airmen, Sailors, dependents, spouses, military civilians, and local national direct hires. We have all these people coming together in our community, putting on a play by our community for our community.”

The idea of doing the play came to Vorobyov last year. Due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, actors practiced virtually and production dates were pushed into the future until everyone could reasonably gather following physical distancing guidelines.

Some of the actors believe the biggest benefits to performance art are the connection to community and a therapeutic way to help with mental health.

“There’s been a big push in the last few years to focus on mental fitness,” said Jenna Turner, a RAF Alconbury community member who plays Marion Castle in the play. “The theater is a way to work on that mental health and work on that emotional health. In the theater, you can get some of those emotions out that you normally have to keep packed in. I think it's a big benefit to mental health.”

Acting is a form of creative process where a person embodies a character, said Vorobyov. Stepping into the shoes of another being can help a person practice empathy.

“Our society teaches sympathy more than empathy,” said Vorobyov. “When someone is having a bad day, we immediately jump to, ‘I’m sorry, that’s unfortunate.’ However, we rarely take the time to say, ‘Wow! I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. Let me sit with you and tell me your troubles. I want to know, I want to understand.’ I challenge all the actors to really understand their roles and empathize with their characters, even the selfish tendencies. Because the practice of empathy allows us to connect to other people better.”

The Big Knife will show at the 423rd Air Base Group Community Activities Center at RAF Alconbury, England, June 3 at 6pm and June 4 at 7pm. The play contains adult content and is suitable for ages 15+. Doors will open one hour prior for drinks. The coffee shop will be selling signature drinks in honor of the show. Tickets are $5 from the ITT office, and must be picked up prior to the day of the show: DSN 314-268-3820 or COMM: 01480 84 3704.