Temple alumnus acts in a play about Russian history

Ross Beschler plays a passionate journalist in a play by The Wilma Theater

Ross Beschler (R), a Temple alumnus, plays Isaac in "Describe the Night" at Wilma Theatre. JOHANNA AUSTIN / COURTESY

Ross Beschler describes his current production as a match between love and dreams versus “a cold, grey bureaucracy.”

“It’s also intended to be a reflection of our current American world as well,” Beschler, a 2009 acting MFA alumnus, said.

Beschler’s currently acting as Isaac Babel in “Describe the Night,” a historical fantasy play about Russian history and the Communist government’s attempts to suppress the truth. The play follows several characters who are caught in the middle of the communist propaganda and is running at The Wilma Theater until Feb. 16. 

Babel is a writer and journalist with a passion for telling stories. He is a member of the Russian army who writes about his experiences from the Russian Revolution in stories, screenplays and poems. Isaac is ultimately killed by a politician, who he became close friends with during the war, as a result of the backlash his writings get.

“My character’s track is a particularly difficult and emotionally fraught one and doesn’t end well for him,” he said.

Beschler got his bachelor’s in Theatre at Columbia University in 2008. He came to Philadelphia to continue his career by trying to be a more physically conscious actor.

“I came to Temple because I’d been in New York for a while and I felt I had hit a wall in terms of my craft and my career,” he said. “I feel like one of the things that differentiate theatre work from film work is it’s very physical and it’s very much about storytelling in the body whereas film you’re mainly doing more thinking.” 

Actors Anthony Martinez-Briggs and Brett Ashley Robinson perform in “Describe the Night,” a show at Wilma Theater. JOHANNA AUSTIN / COURTESY

Beschler has previously been an adjunct professor at Temple where he taught a class called “The Art of Acting.” He is currently a member of the Wilma Hothouse Ensemble, a theater company where he trains and works with other actors by prepping for their shows.

The play can be physically taxing for actors, Beschler said, adding that the three-week run is shorter than most plays and reflects the continued decline of theatre in the United States.

“We’ve been having this problem in regional theatres where the runs are getting shorter,” he said. “Then again, it is a long show and doing eight shows a week takes a lot out of you.”

Mason Walheim, a sophomore marketing and theater major, shadowed Ross for “Take an Owl to Work Day,” where students were paired with alumni and got to observe their jobs for a day. Walheim was impressed with the amount of work and preparation they put into the production.

“It’s really interesting seeing them prepare for it and all the work that goes into it,” Walheim said. “They got into character very quickly and the dynamic between the different characters is very shocking.”

Actors Campbell O’Hare and Keith J. Conallen act in Wilma Theater’s “Describe the Night,” which runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 16 and includes a Temple Alumni. JOHANNA AUSTIN / COURTESY

One show runs for 2 hours and 55 minutes, including one intermission. At the end of the performance, complimentary cheeses and drinks were available for guests in the lobby of the theatre.

Lindsey Smiling saw the performance for the first time and was amazed at how relevant the story is in today’s environment.

“It’s a great examination of storytelling and lies, it’s a very important play with all the misinformation going on right now,” Smiling said. “I definitely saw a bit of today’s world in it even though most of it took place in the past.”

Smiling said that anyone who wants to see it should definitely prepare themselves for an eventful experience.

“If you want to come see this get ready for a crazy ride when you don’t know exactly what’s happening at that moment between what’s real and what isn’t,” he said.

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