A Thoroughly Considered ‘Blithe Spirit’

“Oh my God, I’m dying,” proclaimed Kristin Wolanin, with the buoyancy of someone positively effervescing with life. She then clarified, “It’s just my usual tailspin that happens around this time before every show.”

This was actually the second tailspin that this year’s fall production had induced in the director. The first was over the selection of the play itself. A confluence of factors large and small forced Wolanin to switch from her first choice to her second, and then from her second to panic.

As befits a dramatist who found herself “in the booth tearing my hair out,” deus ex machina took the form of a long-forgotten memory and Wolanin snatched inspiration from the jaws of hopelessness.

“Oh,” she recalled thinking. “‘Blithe Spirit!’ We’re going to do Noël Coward and everyone’s going to love it!”

 

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Everyone will get a chance to prove Wolanin right when the curtain rises on the English playwright’s 1941 comedy centering on a séance gone wrong, leaving a widowed and remarried novelist haunted by one, then a second, ill-tempered ex-wife.

The showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday Nov. 14, 15, and 16, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. Advanced tickets are $7 and available here, or $10 at the door.

“This is a wonderful show for students to step up and showcase their talents,” Wolanin said. “Every cast member is in a role that’s totally different from anything they’ve done before, which has forced them to stretch out and really display their growth as actors.”

“The audience has to come ready to listen,” Wolanin continued. “A lot of the play is sitting and talking” and the dialog is dense with jokes that Wolanin described as “‘Frasier’ humor.” To properly deliver English upper crust jokes, the cast had to memorize and deliver their lines with an English accent.

Of all the areas in which the show required the actors to stretch themselves, elocution presented the stretchiest challenge.

“We’ve had some repeat offenders,” Wolanin said. “Been. Not. Those have been especially tricky for the kids.” But if her troupe can perform Shakespeare with American accents, why can’t they do the same with Noël Coward?

“You could,” Wolanin said, “but there’s a flavor that you’d lose. With this play especially, there’s comedy in the delivery of the words, in how they sound, that means you have to say them a certain way if you want to it to be funny.

“We want it to be funny, so we’ve put in the work to make sure it sounds right,” she said.

While the cast is all Upper Schoolers, the crew has both Middle and Upper Schoolers, with students in grades 6-12 helping bring “Blithe Spirit” to life. In addition, Wolanin’s former student and current assistant project manager at ATOMIC Design, Adam Curry, has lent his talents to the production as technical director.

Wolanin called the show “a great break from reality,” and its popularity has endured since its West End debut more than 75 years ago.

This would have come as no surprise to Coward, who didn’t want for confidence in his play. After German bombs had leveled his office and apartment in the Blitz, he headed to the Welsh coast for a brief working holiday.

“For six days I worked from eight to one each morning and from two to seven each afternoon. On Friday evening, May ninth, the play was finished and, disdaining archness and false modesty, I will admit that I knew it was witty, I knew it was well constructed, and I also knew that it would be a success,” Coward wrote.

Wolanin picked up the thought: “The kids are amazing and it’s going to be awesome.”

 


 

The LCDS Theater Company Presents “Blithe Spirit”

Cast

Charles Condomine — Christopher M.
Ruth Condomine — Malia C.
Elvira — Mae B.
Madame Arcati — Amelia L.
Dr. George Bradman — Adam M.
Violet Bradman — Tess M. & Maya R. (Understudy — Peachy L.)
Edith — Laura B. (Understudy — Peachy L.)

Crew

Production Stage Manager — Joan M.
Assistant Stage Managers — Charley W. & Adrien W.
Sound Designers — Hayden F. & Ben K.
Sound Run — Hayden F. & Ben K.
Props Mistresses and Run: Gaby N. & Linnea W.
Props Crew — Keira A., Mira H., & Litty C.
Props Run — Mira H.
Assistant TD —Riley E.
Deck Carpenter – Run — Riley E.
Set Crew/Stage Crew — Keira A., Renie C., Laurel M., Ruby N., & Frannie T.
Publicity Chief — Charley W.
Publicity Crew — Raphael A. & Ben K.
Costume Mistress/Master and Run — Julia N. & Theo Z.
Costume Crew — Lianne H. & Rebecca M.
Costume Run — Renie C., Lianne H., Laurel M., Rebecca M., & Frannie T.
Master Electrician and Run — Justin K.
Lighting Crew — Rebecca M.
Box Office Manager and Run — William H.
Box Office Assistant and Run — Noah S.
House Manager and Run — Sarah H.
Assistant House Manager and Run — Eli H.
Ushers — Keira A., Waasae A., Raphael A., Litty C., Rohan K., Ruby N., & Morgan T.

Spring Arts ’19

The evening was a celebration of creative expression of all kinds, with an all-school art show, music and dance, Shakespeare and improv, and Poetry Out Loud recitations. The night was also a triumph of generosity and altruism, with Empty Bowls raising more than $1,300 for the Crispus Attucks Community Meal Program. Photos by Carly C. ’19 and Mrs. Wilcox.

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Shakespeare in the Era of Gatsby and Gangsters

In the Steinman Theatre, it’s as if Calvin Coolidge is in the White House, the Talkies are all the rage in cinemas, and the stock market is climbing toward a permanent plateau of prosperity.

The last LCDS Theater production was the musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a period piece and homage set in the 1920s. Director Kristin Wolanin decided to stay in the era of Art Deco and women’s suffrage for tonight’s production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” The showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday April 25, 26 and 27, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27. Advanced tickets are $5 and available here, or $10 at the door.

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“‘Drowsy’ had a very specific look and feel, and this show, while still set in the same time, shows a totally different aspect of that time,” Wolanin said. “This is the 20s of Gatsby, and gangsters, and flappers, and I wanted to explore the different aspects of the decade during the same school year.”

With a sparse, Bourbon Street-inspired set, the show uses the 20s setting not just because the costumes are fun (they are) or because Wolanin wanted to show off her new, old Victrola (she does), but because it offers her cast — all students in her year-long Shakespeare course — a way to engage with the material in a way they otherwise wouldn’t.

“What I want is for the actors to explore the time period. For example, women got the right to vote. How does living through that kind of social change affect someone like Olivia, who’s being courted by one person while she’s in love with another? And the whole idea of ‘dating’ was new. How does that affect how people pursue who they’re interested in?”

While interrogating social norms is a worthy academic exercise, it’s also secondary to putting on an entertaining show. And with a love triangle, mistaken identities galore, and a sanctimonious prig battling a cohort of libertine pranksters, “Twelfth Night” has been delighting audiences for more than four centuries.

Wolanin is sure that streak will continue when the curtain rises Thursday and Saturday night. On Friday and Saturday afternoon, however, a whole different cast will perform, giving audiences the chance to take in the exact same, completely different show.

Seventeen students signed up for Wolanin’s Shakespeare class, a year-long exploration of one play, culminating with the performing of that play. There aren’t 17 parts in “Twelfth Night,” let alone 17 significant parts, so Wolanin double-cast the show. One group will perform on opening and closing night, with the second group tackling the big Friday night and lighter Saturday afternoon performances.

Double-casting means Wolanin is double-directing as well. She seems to enjoy life on the high wire. Or perhaps she’s just acting.

“We’re in the thick of it and it’s total chaos and it’s wonderful!”

Kendall K. is the only senior in the show, and is playing The Fool in the Friday night/Saturday matinee cycle. Her Shakespeare classmates are overwhelmingly freshmen, and Kendall’s prior roles have tended toward the ingenue, so finding herself the veteran, in a starring comedic role “has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“Part of what’s been so great about the class is that we’ve taken the time to learn the context and draw new meaning from the text, actually understanding what the lines mean as opposed to just memorizing and reciting the words,” said Kendall. That understanding is especially important in “Twelfth Night” because it’s a comedy, and if the actors don’t get the words, they — and the audience — won’t be able to get the jokes.

Not to worry, Kendall said.

“The whole experience has been a lot of fun, and it’s a funny show.”

Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday April 25, 26 and 27, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27. Advanced tickets $5 and available here, or $10 at the door.

Cast and Crew List

CAST

Viola — Sam L.** & Amelia L.*
Olivia — Sarah B.* & Sophie M.**
Maria — Malia C.** & Tess M.*
Sir Toby Belch — Skyler W.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek — Rohan K.** & Laurel M.*
Malvolio — George W.
The Fool — Kendall K.* & Charley W.**
Orsino — Justin K.
Valentine — Rohan K.* & Laurel M.**
Curio — Mira H.
Sebastian — Linnea W.** & Mira H.*
Antonio — Frannie T.
Captain — Taamir B.Y.
Priest — Taamir B.Y.
Officers — Sarah B. & Taamir B.Y.

* — Thursday and Saturday night
**— Friday night and Saturday matinee

CREW

Director — Kristin Wolanin
Stage Manager — Christopher M.
Assistant Stage Manager — Adrien W.
Scenic Artist — Diane Wilikofsky
Lighting Design — Barry Fritz
Master Electrician — Hayden F.
Sound Designers — Justin K. & Skyler W.
Sound Technician — Piper S.
Production Props Mistress — Linnea W.
Production Props Assistants — Taamir B.Y., Malia C., Mira H.
Props Run Crew — Anthony P. & Thomas W.
Production Costumes Crew — Kendall K., Rohan K., Sam L., Laurel M., Sophie M., Tess M.
Costumes Mistress — Katrina F.
Costumes Run Crew — Laura B., Sarah H., Maya R., Sadi S.
House Manager — Jack K.
Usher — Sarah H.
Box Office Production Crew — Frannie T., Amelia L.
Box Office Crew — Carly C., William M., David W.
Set Crew — Shakespeare Class
Publicity Crew — Sarah B., Justin K., George W., Charley W.