30 July 2011

Yochum makes time to embrace the absurd

By Brandon Keller, Juris Executive Editor
Last week, I discovered an opportunity to dust off my old theatre degree and use it in my capacity as a law student.  Needless to say, I couldn’t pass it up.  The occasion?  Well, it’s all very interesting . . . I saw Professor Mark Yochum turn into a rhinoceros.

For two weekends in July, the Summer Company brought Rhinoceros to Rockwell Hall.  Rhinoceros, written by Eugene Ionesco, is a piece from the theatre of the absurd, a style which has the capability of puzzling audiences and challenging directors.  This play demands a mastery of timing, with multiple hilarious conversations often occurring on top of each other.   Director Jill Jeffery did a solid job of executing this over-the-top style of humor while (appropriately) causing the audience to scratch their heads at the same time.

At the outset, a sharply-dressed Professor Yochum, playing the part of Jean, is seen on stage, waiting impatiently for his friend, Berenger.  Yochum played a pretentious yet eccentric man who, in his efforts to help his friend get his life in order, found himself simply joining the crowd.  That crowd just so happens to be a steadily-growing contingency of rhinoceroses.  I’ll explain . . .

As Yochum is lecturing his friend about his incessant drinking and sloppy appearance, they see a rhinoceros barreling through the streets.  As the play progresses, you begin to realize that rogue quadrupeds are not escaping from the zoo; on the contrary, the people in this quaint little town are actually turning into rhinoceroses!

The highlight of the night was the third scene, in which Professor Yochum slowly develops the characteristics of a rhinoceros on stage.  As his friend pleads with him not to give in to the pressures of becoming such a destructive and selfish creature, Yochum becomes more and more irate.   He storms about the stage, denouncing his counterpart’s talk of moral values as “anti-nature.”  He lets out a great bellow and plows through the stage left door.  His friend is left to ponder the meaning of all this and wonder why he is the last person left in the world not transformed into a rhinoceros.  He faces a final decision whether to give in or to resist and, as he is finally surrounded by the creatures, chooses the higher path.

Law school has that unfortunate capability of engrossing students, who all too often ignore the things they enjoy.  It’s important to constantly pursue your passions, even if that means putting that casebook down to embrace the absurd.  That’s what Professor Yochum taught me as he bellowed, stomped, and charged his way off stage.

Brandon Keller is an Executive Editor for JURIS.   He is also the Vice Chair of the Public Interest Law Association and a law clerk for Edgar Snyder & Associates.  Brandon earned his undergraduate degree at John Carroll University in 2009, where he majored in Political Science and Communication and Theatre Arts and will graduate from Duquesne University School of Law in June of 2012.  He can be reached at brandon.r.keller@gmail.com.