School of Performing Arts’ ‘Terra Nova’ captures the bravery, brutality of an Antarctic expedition – P. Mayewski

Orono, Maine — An all-student cast of seven will present the University of Maine School of Performing Arts Division of Theatre and Dance production of “Terra Nova” by Ted Tally, opening Feb. 11 in Hauck Auditorium at the University of Maine.


Directed by UMaine theatre instructor Julie Arnold Lisnet, “Terra Nova” is adapted from the journals of Robert Scott’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica, documenting the winter of 1911–12 when Scott and a team of five Englishmen raced five Norwegians to become the first to reach the geographic South Pole.


Public performances are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11–12 and 17–19, and 2 p.m. Feb. 13 and 20. Tickets are $12 or free with a student MaineCard and available for purchase online. To request a reasonable accommodation, contact Birdie Sawyer, 207.581.2584;


“Terra Nova” is presented with generous support from the Alton ’38 and Adelaide Hamm Campus Activity Fund.


“Terra Nova” blends scenes of Scott and his men at various stages of their ordeal, with flashbacks of Scott and his young wife, and fateful encounters of his Norwegian rival, Roald Amundsen, whose party beat him to the South Pole by 34 days. Refusing the use of sled dogs as unsporting, Scott and his team struggle to drag their heavy gear across a frozen wasteland, only to find that Amundsen had beaten them to the punch.


To prepare for the physicality of their roles, cast members collaborated with Paul Mayewski, director of the UMaine Climate Institute. Mayewski, who has made more than 100 first ascents into the mountains and traveled thousands of kilometers across the Antarctic shelf, explored the motivations of an Antarctic explorer, discussing hypothermia, snow blindness, sleeping conditions, hygiene, and the challenge of “putting one foot in front of another in unimaginably harsh conditions.”


Mayewski will host a special audience talk-back session after the Feb. 13 matinee performance.


“Terra Nova” is a study of British pride and upper-class resolve, but it is in the tragic trip back, as the members of the expedition die one by one, that the play reaches its climax, capturing the bravery of men who must accept the bitter knowledge that suffering and death will be the only reward.


Lisnet explains why she was drawn to the story: “A fourth-grade social studies activity pack on Scott and Amundsen fired my imagination many long years ago. Their story has haunted me since. In a place where no human is native, Scott and his men endured hardships, beyond our comprehension, all the while maintaining their humanity.”


Connor Bolduc, a theater and philosophy major from Lewiston who plays the role of Roald Amundsen, agrees. “There’s something so painful — so terrifying — but also so powerful of watching the tragedy of these men struggling through the Antarctic, and ultimately not getting anything out of it. I don’t know if they would’ve all been forgotten, but what seems apparent is that Scott and his men can reach a lot of audiences and help them think about what it means to risk everything for something you want or love,” Amundsen says.


“The play is so brutally honest, and it leaves the audience perplexed while taking them through the ominous journey of Scott and his men,” says Patty Morris, a history major from Attleboro, Massachusetts, who plays Evans. “Not only am I telling a story of this man, but telling a story that ought to be remembered throughout history, and helping people learn history through the medium of theater.”