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A rhinoceros standing next to large, white letters spelling the word rhinoceros.

Rhinoceros opens November 29

Student theatre production of 1959 play tackles timely topics

November 22, 2023 — 

The next production of the Department of English, Theatre, Film & Media’s Theatre Program runs November 29 to December 2.

Before and during World War II, both in Romania and then France, Rhinoceros playwright Eugène Ionesco watched the people around him embrace fascism and become Nazis. This experience inspired him to create this Absurdist genre play in which his main character, Berenger, watches everyone he knows transform into Rhinoceroses. Rather than confront this change directly, the characters spend their time debating bizarre topics such as whether the rhinos have one horn or two, are Asiatic or African. Reason itself is turned on it’s head as everyone’s energy is spent on anything but confronting the monstrous change in front of them.

At a time when the seductive allure of brutish unreason has made a resurgence in many places and manifests in recent movements like MAGA, Q-Anon, the strangest of microchip Anti-Vax conspiracies and the Freedom Convoy, it seems very appropriate to revisit this play in 2023. Suddenly, the absurdities in the text of the play seem all too connected to an underlying reality as themes of conformity, culture, responsibility, logic, mob mentality and morality are explored.

In these productions, students from all levels of the theatre program work together demonstrating their course-learned skills onstage, backstage and through promotion. The experience not only produces a full theatrical production for audiences to enjoy, but also provides hands-on experience to the students that helps them learn the ins-and-outs of working in the world of theatre. “Teaching theatre is teaching serious play,” shared Rhinoceros director, Dr. William Kerr. Through classes and productions “students encounter the great commitment and discipline required to make play real.”

Rhinoceros is a unique production that includes fear, comedy, distance and physicality. Even after years of teaching and directing, Dr. Kerr notes that he can still be pleasantly surprised when working with students. Sam Fergus, cast as Jean, has to convince the audience that he is turning into a rhinoceros right in front of them. “Sam has an extensive and fascinating body of physical work behind him, including some training in sumo wrestling, which allows him to make physical choices I never remotely envisioned,” says Dr. Kerr.

Tickets are $10.00 plus Eventbrite fees and can be purchased online. You can also follow along with the theatre students as they prepare for the production on Instagram @rhinocerousuofm.


A play by Eugène Ionesco
Translated by Martin Krimp
Directed by Dr. Bill Kerr
November 29 – December 2, 2023
John J. Conklin Theatre, Gail Asper Performing Arts Hall
150 Dafoe Road, West Tache Arts Complex, UM Fort Garry campus
Showtime: Nightly at 7:30 p.m.
One additional afternoon performance at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 2

Support student theatre – get your $10 ticket today.


Design credits: Costume design by Eva Miranda. Set design by Shane Steward. Lighting design by Bee Dasuki. Sound design by Riel Graves. Promotional design by Joseph Ogbonnaya. Rhinoceros design by committee.


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