Seeing Other People: 'No Exit' explores what true Hell is, while opening doors for students

Imagine you are brought to a mysterious room by someone you don’t know. You don’t know where you are, and there are two other people with you.

You soon realize you’re in Hell. And after getting to know the other two personalities in the room, you realize they are your Hell, and you are theirs.

“The biggest torture of the room is having to live with themselves and with two other people that they do not like for the rest of eternity,” said Director Bruno Streck Rodrigues, a senior at Grand Valley State University.

Streck Rodrigues is part of Grand Valley’s Performance Studio Series, where students put on an entire show themselves, from directing to acting, designing and budgeting. Students who have taken Directing 1 are eligible to apply with a show in mind and a concept to present to professors, who review the student’s grades and decide if the student can take on a show.

Streck Rodrigues, theater communications major and music minor, is excited to be part of an entirely student-led production. As an actor turned director, it’s an entirely different experience to be calling all the shots.

“Being an actor in a show, you can bring your ideas to the character you’re playing, but as a director, you’re bringing all your ideas to the entire show and it’s a really different perspective,” he said.

For his show, Streck Rodrigues picked an adaptation of No Exit, a 1944 existentialist French play by Jean-Paul Sartre. The play is an illustration of Sartre’s famous quote: “Hell is other people.”

“This is one of my favorite shows ever, because it was written a long time ago, but the main lead guy is Brazilian. I’m Brazilian, so it’s really cool to see my nationality in a show that was written so long ago,” Streck Rodrigues said. “And it also has a lesbian character, and I’m gay, so I can identify with her identity as well.”

Streck Rodrigues said he likes the newer version he’s working with because it’s more understandable and contemporary.

“I really like this show because of the entire idea of you having to live with other people and how to learn to be with other people and how to live in harmony,” Streck Rodrigues said. “A big part of the show is the characters trying to find harmony between themselves.”

He noted that this concept is something everyone should hear, and he hopes the audience connects with the deeper meaning.

“It’s a message that everybody could use right now: learning to live with differences,” Streck Rodrigues said. “The characters have different sexualities, different backgrounds, different ethnicities, and I just think that making it obvious for the audience that if the characters had learned how to overlook their differences, they could’ve been happier, that’s the message that we need right now.”

Jacob Miller, 20, is a GVSU junior. He’s playing the part of Vincent Cradeau and said a couple of themes resonate throughout the play.

“One of the themes in the show is suffering,” Miller said. “In this show, hell is not portrayed as physical torture but mental and psychological torture. The characters keep poking and prodding at each other’s past.

“Another is the power struggle that is constantly going from one character to another. I want the audience to be conflicted on how they feel about each of our characters. None of us are good people, but occasionally we allow the hurt and pain to show through and show we are human. We want the audience to leave unsure of everything.”

And it’s not because he wants the audience to be confused. Streck Rodrigues also said he wants the audience members to question themselves after seeing such a thought-provoking show.

“It’s a very character-heavy show, so you really get deep into the characters,” Streck Rodrigues said. “I'm trying to make people actually connect with these characters and see where their faults are, and leave the theater very affected by what they saw.”

No Exit
by Jean-Paul Sartre
Grand Valley State University
Linn Maxwell Keller Black Box Theatre
10749 S. Campus Dr., Allendale
April 5-8, $6