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Local director brings “Don Juan” to life

Mark Fossen, local guest director of Westminster's production

Mark Fossen, local guest director of Westminster’s production “Don Juan Comes Back from the War,” chose the show because of his history with the piece. Fossen said that although the show is set after World War I, it is still relevant to today’s audience. Photo courtesy Rick Pollock, Plan-B Theatre

Westminster’s latest theatre production “Don Juan Comes Back from the War,” debuted Nov. 12 with the support, passion and guidance of local guest director, Mark Fossen.

“Don Juan Comes Back from the War” focuses on Don Juan, a shell-shocked German soldier who returns to a crumbling Berlin after World War I. In an attempt to rebuild himself, he returns to his old womanizing habits.

Fossen said one reason he initially pitched the idea for the show was because of his personal history.

“I was in this show back in college myself and they cast two of us as Don Juan,” Fossen said. “It worked out well because I got deathly ill during the run and never performed in it. So it’s always sort of been in the back of my mind.” 

Fossen has been acting, directing and dramaturging in the theatre industry for about 25 years in locations such as Chicago, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. He is currently pursuing an MFA in directing at the University of Idaho. 

Despite the show’s setting in 1918 Europe, Fossen said the show is relevant to a modern audience.

“I think [the show] speaks to who we are right now,” Fossen said. “I also think it has a lot to say about gender roles and a lot of the stuff that we are beginning to become more aware of in terms of how we treat the genders and sort of stereotypes of both men and women.”

Max Huftalin, a senior theatre major who plays the character Don Juan, said he does not think this is “what people think of when they think of the theatre.”

Only nine women have been cast, but over 30 characters appear throughout the show.

“We each play about four to five different characters, and they’re all super different,” said Amanda Corbett, a senior theatre major in “Don Juan Comes Back from the War” who has also worked with Fossen when he directed “August: Osage County” at Utah Repertory Theatre.

“Everyone has brought their ‘A game,’” Corbett said. “I think that this show is going to be really awesome because of the love and the work that Mark’s put into it. He is a really enthusiastic director, and I think that he came in with a really awesome vision and goal to help our department grow and to help our actors learn.”

Other cast members feel that Fossen has helped shaped their performance and actor training.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Suni Gigliotti, senior theater major and actor in the show. “Mark just brings so much with his vision and the direction he gives you as an actor.”

Fossen said he has enjoyed working on the show and specifically with Westminster students.

“There’s just a real spirit of collaboration here, and students [are] just willing to do whatever it takes, and I really appreciate that,” said Fossen.

“Don Juan Comes Back from The War” runs Nov. 19–21, and general admission is $10. However, Westminster students get in free with a student ID.

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