“Here’s my life, make an offer.”
This sign greeted audience members of “Rocket Man,” a student produced play at Pomona College directed by Jake Stoebel, which debuted April 13.
Stoebel, a senior theater arts major at Pomona College, directed the play as part of his senior project and said that a main reason why he chose this play was because “it asks more questions than it answers.”
Last semester, Stoebel wrote his senior thesis on the play and touched on humanity’s obsession with alternate lives:
“When I was little I was taught that I could have anything if I could only imagine it—‘dream big,’ ‘let your reach exceed your grasp,’ ‘hitch your wagon to a star’—and while I am grateful for this lesson, I must confess that such adages taught me nothing about the hard work, dedication and sacrifice required to achieve my dreams. Anyone can dream of another life, but having the courage to live the life you have is what truly defines humanity and a life well spent.”
The play began with the protagonist Donny giving a testimonial on how, for 20 years, he stood on the corner of an intersection pushing a walk button only to realize that once he had taken it apart, no wiring had existed inside.
The button was symbolic of mankind in that many people live their life believing that if they just dream, wish and hope that they can achieve their full potential, they will.
In the setting of an attic, Donny cleans out his memorabilia and every little knickknack that shows he ever existed to sell it on his front lawn and leave behind his life.
Soon thereafter, Donny is confronted by his good friend Buck, daughter Trisha, ex-wife Rita, and love interest Louise, who all try to convince him to snap out of his depression and pursue his dream of becoming an architect.
After Donny has been left to himself, an accidental explosion occurs, which results in his death.
In the second act, an alternate universe in which people grow younger is depicted, and though Donny is now the architect that he always wanted to be, he is still not satisfied with his life.
He has given up his work for lack of inspiration and his marriage still ended sooner than he had planned.
The play ended with a sense of the two universes combined to show a commemoration of Donny’s life from Act I and a return to his beloved work as an architect from Act II.
“The play was very moving. It showed that you don’t want to have any regrets in life,” said Elizabeth Mooney, an audience member at the April 14 performance.
“It was an interesting concept with a surprising ending,” said Christina Bruno, friend of actress Sam Rorick, who played Trisha.
The play had two additional showings on April 14 and 15. Stoebel made it a point to be present at all three showings.
“The best thing a director can give his actors is attention. It is imperative that I make it to all the showings because I want to create an environment where they can feel my support,” Stoebel said.
The play allowed Stoebel to work with new talent as well as continue with previous working relationships as with actress Camille Brown, who played Louise.
“He challenges us to play on stage and have fun with our characters. He’s a great director,” Brown said.
Stoebel plans to pursue his career in theater upon his graduation from Pomona College and looks forward to being accepted by a theater house, where he may direct and work with a base of actors.
Stoebel's advice to anyone interested in directing is “It is important to plan out what you want during the rehearsals, but you have to keep in mind that you can't plan everything. Sometimes you just take what comes and enjoy the chance to have fun and play.”
Megan Montalvo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.