Making the Audience Squirm, but ‘Funny Squirming’

“I love him,” Wolanin swooned. “In undergrad I first fell in love with him and I saw ‘The Imaginary Invalid’ and ‘The Misanthrope’ and, of course, ‘Tartuffe.’ ‘Tartuffe’ is my favorite. It’s just…”

With that, Director Kristin Wolanin trailed off in smiling reverie. The “him” she fell in love with is Molière, one of the French language’s greatest playwrights, whose comedies have remained popular since the 17th century and continue to grace stages around the world.

The curtain will rise on the Lancaster Country Day theater troupe’s production of “Tartuffe” at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 1-3, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, Nov. 3. Advance tickets are $7 and available here. They will be $10 at the door.

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Written in 1664, “Tartuffe” has left a lasting impression on both French and English, with the name of its main character entering the lexicon as a byword for a religious hypocrite or someone who puts on ostentatiously virtuous airs.

“Tartuffe is a piece of work,” Wolanin said, going easy on the play’s titular pious fraud, who cons and swindles and attempts to corrupt every other character in the play. “He’s selling salvation and the rest of the characters so blindly believe that this guy is their salvation. Until they’re forced to learn otherwise.”

In bringing to life a story written in another language more than three and a half centuries ago, the cast faced a daunting challenge, but the main difficulty came neither from the translation nor cultural distance. What makes “Tartuffe” particularly tricky to perform in a naturalistic way is that the entire play is composed in rhyming couplets.

“Getting the rhythm of the dialogue right has been probably the hardest part for everybody, but when they get there and it just flows and they’re comfortable with it, it’s beautiful,” said Wolanin. “I love that it was written in 1664 and still feels timely. And timeless.”

One thing that’s not timeless is fashion, but for this production, Wolanin opted to be true to the period, decking the cast in full Louis XIV-era regalia. To help get the look right, the school partnered with Millersville University for its costumes, which don’t skimp on the powdery wigs or frilly frocks.

A skill that was vital for the actors to master, and that will be just as important for the audience, is listening closely. While someone in the course of regular talking could speak in iambic pentameter without it sounding stilted, the odds of that person communicating in extemporaneous rhyming couplets are decidedly slimmer.

But Wolanin promises that the audience’s close listening will be rewarded.

“I want people to come away thinking about whether they’re being Tartuffed somehow,” Wolanin said. “It might make people squirm. But funny squirming.”

“Tartuffe,” 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 1-3, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, Nov. 3. Advance tickets are $7 and available here. They will be $10 at the door.


“Tartuffe” Cast & Crew

Cast:

Orgon — David W.
Elmire — Kendall K.
Damis — Laurel M.
Mariane — May B.
Madame Pernelle — Mira H.
Valere — Hayden F.
Cleante — Ben K.
Tartuffe — Thomas W.
Dorine — Adrien W.
Flipote — Amelia L.
The Officer of the King — Tess M.
M. Loyal — Frannie T.

Crew:

Production Stage Manager — Malia C.
Assistant Stage Managers — Kylie D. and Joan M.
Sound Designers — Grace F. and Piper S.
Sound Run — Piper S.
Props Mistress and Run — Gaby N.
Props Crew — Mira H., Tess M., Maya R. and Linnea W.
Props Run — Linnea W.
Lead Set Design — Carly C.
Set Crew/Stage Crew — Julia B., Riyley E., Amelia L., Piper S., Adrien W. and Linnea W.
Publicity Chief — Charley W.
Costume Mistress and Run — Katrina F.
Costume Crew — Julia B., Sam L., Sarah H., Amelia L., Christopher M., Julia N., Sadi S., Frannie T. and Adrien W.
Costume Run — Amelia L., Christopher M., Julia N. and Sadi S.
Master Electrician and Run — Justin K.
Box Office Manager and Run — Amelia S.
Box Office Assistant and Run — Sophie M.
House Manager and Run — Maya R.
Ushers — Julia B., Carly C., Riley E., Sam L., Grace F. and Sarah H.

Spring Arts 2018

Photos by Mrs. Wilcox, Lauren N. ’19 and Carly C. ’19

Last week’s Spring Arts Festival was a celebration of all things creative at LCDS, featuring more than 200 pieces of student-curated art, performances from Middle and Upper school dance troupes, Sarah F. ’18 on harp, the Finley and Jonathan clarinet duo, Poetry Out Loud and jazz band.

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A Lastsummer’s Weird Idea

In a flash of inspiration befitting Shakespeare’s most impish and whimsical play, Director Kristin Wolanin — while attending a Hawaii-themed fundraiser — had an epiphany.

As the auteur herself put it: “I had a weird idea last year and all summer I crafted it.”

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Wolanin’s weird idea sent the Playing Shakespeare class on a tropical adventure that sets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Aloha State, and features everything from a ukulele ensemble’s Hawaiian lullaby to a quartet of Lower School fairies.

The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are $7 in advance and available here, or $10 at the door.

One of the Bard’s most popular plays and a staple of Middle School English classes, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has served as the introduction to Shakespeare’s work for generations of students.

Wolanin ascribes the play’s perennial popularity to its resonance with adolescents and the travails of the Middle School years.

“The play is very adaptable,” she said, “and the themes of first loves and misunderstandings and wanting to be able run away and hide in a magical forest — it’s not a stretch for a lot of Middle School kids to relate to parts that for adults are pure fantasy.”

To help the cast learn the nuances of Hawaiian culture, history and language, parent Mika McDougall volunteered as a sort of paradise consultant. The Hawaii native “was incredibly generous with her time,” Wolanin said. “Mika’s contribution to the play was just awesome. Her work with the students gave the whole production an authenticity that took it to another level and I can’t thank her enough.”

This is the first LCDS production in almost a decade to feature a cast that draws from all three divisions. The Lower School’s contribution to the team consists of four fairies, who were chosen from fourth and fifth graders who got their first taste of the audition process.

On the other end of the age spectrum were the 11 Upper Schoolers who enrolled in the Playing Shakespeare class. The class is a year-long elective that combines play study and rehearsal with historical context, as well as physical, vocal and speech training. The course’s final exam, as it were, is the production of the work they’ve spent all year immersing themselves in.

Because Wolanin chooses a different play each year, Playing Shakespeare is never the same course twice. This means that the dramatically inclined, such as senior Delphi A., can take the course for three of her four Upper School years. Delphi, who plays Puck in “Midsummer,” has done just that.

“This year’s class was really fun because the play essentially has three different plots,” Delphi said. “That gave us the opportunity to work on our own, as well as in small groups and as an entire class. When you spend that much time with the text and with each other, you just feel such a deeper connection to the play.”

“The big thing with Shakespeare is the story,” Wolanin said. “Not the sets, not the costumes, not some cool lighting idea, none of that can capture the essence of what’s important. If those things are bad, they can distract, but performing Shakespeare is all about the words and getting the actors to express the story. That’s the place we’re trying to get to — or at least get closer to — every day in class.”

London, Stonehenge and Shakespeare, Oh My!

By Delphi A. ’18
Photos By Hayden F. ’20

We got through the security at Philadelphia International Airport with plenty of time to spare so Ms. Wolanin separated the 13 of us into two groups — Delphi Red Boots, and Mitch Mahoney — and sent us on an airport scavenger hunt. We had to ask strangers to name Shakespeare shows, take a photo defining ufology and many other quirky or theater-related prompts. Back at our gate, the scores were tallied (Delphi Red Boots was in the lead). Seven hours later, we landed in London.

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Since it was morning local time, we had to push through the haze of exhaustion that hung over us and do a walking tour of the city. Our amazement quickly overpowered our tiredness. We rode the Tube and took a double-decker bus. We saw the statue of William Shakespeare in Leicester Square and almost got drenched by a fountain. From the top of the London Eye we could see over the tops of many of the buildings we had seen on foot, and huge expanses of the city we didn’t have time to see close up. After a dinner of meat pies and mashed potatoes, we made the way to our hotel and our rooms. We had been awake for around 32 hours.

The next morning we set out for some of the major landmarks, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Westminster Abbey to start. From there we headed to Buckingham Palace, home of the Queen, whom we were lucky enough to see. Many photos later we were on our way to Windsor Castle, the Queen’s favorite home, a building with 1,000 rooms. We got back to the city with just enough time to grab some delicious hamburgers before popping over to a local theater to see our first show, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of “Hamlet.” Intense and emotional, the show left us with lots to discuss.

The next morning we had a theater workshop that began with us warming up our bodies by jumping in unison and then in rounds. As more steps were added we learned that the simple act of jumping and clapping can be quite difficult. Next, we attempted to copy the walk of someone in the room, learning not only how challenging it is to imitate such a seemingly simple action, but also how our own way of walking may be unique. Finally, we attempted to tell stories using only our bodies frozen in a scene. As actors who spend a lot of time memorizing lines, it was eye-opening to tell a story without any sound.

After an afternoon that included a trip to the British Museum and some spirited Scrabble in a café basement, we made our way to the next show, “The Play That Goes Wrong.” The comedy about all the things that can go wrong during a performance hit close to home for all of us actors and technicians. There were many moments when we thought, “That has totally happened to us.” It was relatable and had me in tears of laughter.

The next day we left early for Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. First, we stopped at Anne Hathaway’s cottage. (Not that Anne Hathaway.) Shakespeare and his wife grew up in the same town. Next, we headed to Trinity Church, the final resting place of the Bard himself. We stood in reverence barely a foot from the stone marking Shakespeare’s grave. It had been raining when we entered the church, but when we left the sky was clear.

From where his days ended, we then journeyed to where they began. Our tour through the small home that Shakespeare grew up in included a sing-along with a man dressed in Elizabethan attire and playing a Renaissance instrument. Before we left, we ran into two Shakespearean actors who performed a monologue before asking some of us to join them in a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” not realizing that many of us are going to be in our own production of that show this April. After dinner back in London, we headed to the National Portrait Gallery, where we spent the remainder of our time before seeing “Mamma Mia!” Bright lights, with songs that make you want to dance, “Mamma Mia!” was a truly exhilarating experience that had us laughing and smiling.

The next day began with Ms. Wolanin’s proclamation: “It’s Globe day!” After a tour of the reconstructed Globe Theatre, we took an acting workshop in which Hayden F. ’20 and Ben K. ’21 got to perform the iconic balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet.”

That afternoon we went on a tour of the city through the lens of Harry Potter, visiting many of the films’ locations and discussing the places that exist only in the magical world of green screens and movie studios. After that we got the chance to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral to participate in Evensong, an evening service.

After dinner, we headed out on the second themed tour of the day, but this one was much darker. As we walked down the back alleys of Whitechapel, a district in London’s East End, we heard the gruesome and bloodcurdling stories of the Jack the Ripper murders. We headed back to our hotel, hoping not to have nightmares.

On the way to Bath, we stopped at Stonehenge for a tour and plenty of photo opportunities. We discovered you cannot actually touch the stones as there are still many artifacts beneath the earth that we could disturb by walking above them. It was still very eye-opening to stand so close to such an ancient structure. In Bath, we saw the interior of the well preserved Roman baths. A monk stood by the main bath, blessing all travelers. The next morning we got a chance to visit a henge with stones we could actually touch, in the small town of Avebury. The wind whipped our hair around us as we strolled the beautiful countryside. It seemed we were as far from the city as we could possibly be.

Back in London, we made a fast shopping visit to Harrod’s, took the obligatory photo walking across Abbey Road, then we spent some time at the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221b Baker St. We went to see platform 9¾, and as we were leaving Kings Cross, we were caught in brief hailstorm. We ate a delicious curry outside the Tower of London, and then headed to our final performance, “The Comedy About A Bank Robbery,” a dark comedy with an even darker twist in the second act. The show drew us in and made us gasp.

As we went to bed our on our last night, we played cards and reminisced. The feeling was unanimous that the trip had been a both educational and magical experience.

Artist in Residence Performs with LS Students

Prolific children’s musician Steven Courtney has been working with students in preschool-fifth grade to put on a unique performance for parents and other friends in the audience. The animated and eclectic show featured Courtney’s own compositions, such as “Banana the Rhino,” as well as Bob Marley’s laid back anthem “Three Little Birds.” Project Arts made the special event possible by underwriting the Artist in Residence program that allowed Courtney to work as closely with the students as he has.

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