Senior tackles humor and gravity in ‘God of Carnage’ production at Sweet Briar

Posted on November 23, 2016 by Janika Carey

Sweet Briar College senior Emelie Wurster loves it when she can make people laugh and think at the same time. Her final project — directing Yasmina Reza’s dark comedy “God of Carnage” — gave her the chance to do just that.

“I have always loved ‘God of Carnage’,” says the theater major from Minden, Nev. “I remember reading it when I was younger and somehow it ended up back in my hands when I was a second-year [student]. I knew then that it was the show for me.”

Emelie Wurster ’17. Photo by Kylene Hayslett Emelie Wurster ’17. Photo by Kylene Hayslett

The French playwright’s plot focuses on an argument between two 11-year-old boys that sparks a well-intentioned — and then increasingly uncivilized — discussion between their parents. The evening slips into chaos as the four adults begin to engage in an irrational debate that involves misogyny, racial prejudice and homophobia.

“What interests me the most about [the play] is the fact that it is a dark comedy,” Wurster says. “It has so many funny moments that really deal with much deeper ideas.”

The play was first staged — in German — on Dec. 2, 2006, in Zürich, Switzerland, and has since been produced in theaters around the world.

At Sweet Briar, “God of Carnage” opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 — exactly 10 years after its premiere — with a repeat performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, in Sweet Briar’s studio theater in the Babcock Fine Arts Center. Free tickets for the limited-seating show may be reserved starting Monday, Nov. 28, by calling the box office at (434) 381- 6120 or emailing

Wurster says she has spent much of the last year preparing for the big day.

“With the set design, I attempted to create a sense of normalcy,” she explains. “This show deals with parents who are involved with many issues, and I really tried to make it seem like they could be the people next door.”

Her cast consists of junior Emma Thom in the role of Veronica Novak, Stephen Sargeant as Michael Novak, Bradley Branham as Alan Raleigh and first-year Alexis Brunson as Annette Raleigh.

Despite the relatively small cast, Wurster has found that staging a play requires an enormous amount of dedication and discipline.

“My biggest challenge has been keeping myself organized and up to date with everything that was happening,” says Wurster, who is also a member of the choir, president of Paint ‘n’ Patches, and on the field riding team. “So much goes into putting on a performance and it has involved a lot of hard work, but seeing everything start to come together in rehearsals is so rewarding.”

Thankfully, Wurster came prepared. Small class sizes in Sweet Briar’s theater program have allowed her to learn about all aspects of theater production, she says.

Emelie Wurster in “The Trojan Women” earlier this semester. Photo by Kylene Hayslett Emelie Wurster in “The Trojan Women” earlier this semester. Photo by Kylene Hayslett

“I’ve been able to act in different spaces, both indoors and outdoors, and I’ve worked on building sets, as an electrician and as a lighting designer. And now as a director. Everything builds on itself and has been so helpful in this whole process.”

Her favorite experience, she adds, was serving as assistant lighting designer for the musical “Spring Awakening.”

“I really love the musical. Being able to actually play with the lighting of the show helped me learn more about design work and how much lighting can really influence a production.”

Wurster came to Sweet Briar for its riding program, but found herself bonding not just with the College’s horses. She made lots of friends in the theater program and forged valuable connections that stretched far beyond the Central Virginia campus. Last summer, she landed a job as master electrician at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts in Warsaw, Ind.

Wurster knows she wants to stay involved in the field after graduation — whether that’s as an actor or on the technical side.

“Sweet Briar Theatre has really changed my life,” she says. “When I entered college as a first-year, I had no clue about — or much interest in — theater, but after one production, I was hooked.”