UF College of the Arts alumna Celeste Den is currently working at the Goodman Theatre on the show "The King of Hell’s Palace," a play that delves into the conflicts that occur in China when a society relies on the sale of human blood for its main source of income.
This project is “fast and furious and all hands on deck,” according to Den. For the first two weeks of the program, the actors worked with Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, the show’s playwright, by acting out scenes and receiving rewrites everyday.
During the third week of the project, Tea Alagic, the play’s director, assisted the actors in expanding their understanding of the characters and pivotal scenes in the performance. Audiences were permitted to watch the making of the play, which was a “daunting though ultimately enlightening experience,” Den said.
The project is presently in its fourth and final week, but it does not feel like the end to the actors. With every performance, those involved in the project continue to explore the complex dynamics of the story and channel the overarching meaning of the play.
When thinking about the play, Den recalls her time at UF when other students went to plasma centers to sell their blood, but she never ended up doing it herself. China is a country where the most sustainable resource is the public who lives there, so it is not surprising that blood becomes the community’s largest form of capital.
This story considers human nature in its simplest form because we are all hungry for a better life not only for ourselves, but for our children as well. At times, we go to extreme measures to achieve the life we desire. Den asserts that the play begs the question “Would you stand up for what you believe is right even if it cost you everything?”
“Only we ourselves know our answer,” she said.
"The Kind of Hell's Palace" ran September 25 - October 9, 2016. To learn more about the play, visit www.goodmantheatre.org.