The Wave, by Ron Jones, a Unity Productions presentation, is a theatrical adaptation of Mr. Jones’ short story, “The Third Wave,” a fictionalization of his experience as a college professor teaching a history course on the Vietnam War during the 1960s. The Wave is a one-man play, the single character being Ron, the teacher. Although Ron has various conversations with students and one teacher (much of the play is Ron addressing his classroom), all other characters are imagined.
When a student asks Ron how during World War II the German people could not know about the concentration camps and afterward feel complicit in the Holocaust, Ron has no ready answer. But he knows it has something to do with the collective self-worth that comes from living under a dictatorship and the belief that one is part of a movement toward good.
So to answer the question, he slowly starts organizing his class in a totalitarian fashion. He writes on the blackboard: “Strength Through DISCIPLINE.” He asks that students no longer work toward individual grades, but, instead, work toward a collective grade for the class. He finds his students more than compliant — the command sharpens their attention; even the dullest of them emerge from their reclusive shells to excel.
A note in the program says that Ron “wanted to deter his students from the allure of totalitarianism.” My impression is that explanation was merely an excuse he gave one student’s parent. Whatever Ron’s original pedagogical motives were, those motives dissolve with his innocence as he takes on the lascivious appeal of power. What began as an experiential exercise turns into a cultish movement. Instead of students dropping out of the class, enrollment swells; students start recruiting other students, membership expands to other colleges.
John Kovach as Ron, who also co-directed the production, commands the stage and his audience with ease. His co-director and sound designer is Billy Chace.
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