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.

Halloween: A Festival on Parade

Be warned: The following slideshow contains images of adorable, costumed children, as well as graphic depictions of hand-holding, water balloon-throwing, and donut-dangling-from-a-yardstick eating. If you find any of these things irresistible, Cougar News strongly urges you to prepare to smile. Special thanks as always to Donna Wilcox and everyone who shared their photos.

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Fire, Rebirth, and a Photobombing

“I am convinced that by far the best and most enduring thing we can leave for our children and for the children of others is a good education — one that is sound and broad. That tells the story in one sentence. That is why I am for the school.” — C. Dudley Armstrong, speaking at the June 6, 1949 groundbreaking of the 725 Hamilton Road incarnation of Lancaster Country Day School. Armstrong donated the original nine acres in School Lane Hills where Country Day now sits.

On a chilly Monday morning in April 1949, a fire broke out in the basement of Lancaster Country Day School on North Lime Street.

“The bell started to ring and the teachers said we had to leave the building,” Marge said. “It all happened very fast and we couldn’t get our coats or anything. You could smell the smoke, and the scene on the street was pretty chaotic.”

Marge waited for the school bus, which proceeded to drop her off at home hours earlier than it was supposed to.

“I walked in the door and the first thing my mom said wasn’t what are you doing home, it was, ‘Where’s your coat?’”

Her coat, as it turned out, was too smoky to be salvaged, but from the ashes of Lime Street would rise something truly remarkable. Seven months after Country Day’s home burned down, it welcomed students to a new home. Armstrong, who had no children at the school, had donated nine acres of land, helped raise many thousands of dollars, and spearheaded the crash project whose result would become the school we know today.

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Assembly

Marge is Margaretta Light Edwards ’59. As her class gathers this weekend to celebrate their 60th reunion, they will come back to a building (or at least an address) that’s bound them together and held a special place in their hearts for 70 years.

In 1959, 12 seniors graduated from Country Day. The class has remained exceptionally close, and more than half of the gang of 59ers has gotten together every year since the Carter Administration.

Ten years before they graduated, however, two members of the Class of ’59 made their newspaper debut in an innocent photobombing of sorts.

Marge lived on State Street and her best friend, Sandy Hodge Cross ’59, lived on President Avenue, so the old school burning down was a boon to them, commute-wise. Before they walked into the school as students, however, they stumbled upon its future site as summer adventurers.

“We happened to be on our bikes and riding around and we heard this big to-do. We didn’t know what it was, so we walked up to the front of the line and checked it out.”

The big to-do was Trustee and Board President C. Dudley Armstrong’s ceremonial groundbreaking of the Hamilton Road school. The front-page picture in the June 7, 1949 Intelligencer Journal shows Armstrong, shovel in hand, next to two little girls, squinting in the bright sun and looking bored, confused, and skeptical in that way 7-year-olds have a unique gift for.

“We didn’t know what was going on,” Marge said. “We knew we were going to go a new school, but we had no idea what we were watching had anything to do with that.”

Third grade was Marge’s first year at the Hamilton Road incarnation of Country Day, and it’s hard not to view her first impression of the new building as a good omen. “The school on Lime Street was so dark,” she said. “And the new school was so bright. There were big windows and we got so much sun, and my biggest impression from second grade to third grade was of moving from that darkness into the light.”

Thanks to a weekly speaker assembly that brought in someone of prominence to talk to the students, Marge also got an early start on college prep that first year in the bright new school.

“One day the speaker came in and talked about Wellesley College. Her talk was for the juniors and seniors, but the whole school came to those assemblies, and I went home that day and said to my mom, ‘I’m going to Wellesley College!’”

And that’s exactly what Marge did, graduating from Wellesley with degrees in Biblical history and French. She went on to teach French, and became a tireless advocate for improving public education, working with a national nonprofit to further this goal.

In 2004, Country Day presented Marge with the Alumni Achievement Award in honor of this work.

Asked what she felt as a student was special about the school that endures to this day, Marge didn’t hesitate.

“The individualized attention. You could always ask for help if you needed it, and the teachers were genuinely interested and invested in their students. They cared, and we all knew they cared,” she said.

Marge was speaking for herself, but expressing a sentiment with which legions of her fellow alumni across the years would agree. As we celebrate Alumni Weekend, Cougar News would like to thank Margaretta Light Edwards for sharing her story, as well as every other graduate of Country Day, whose own memories and stories form the tapestry that unites us all.

Graduation 2019

As the clock struck 10:01, the band struck up that familiar tune and the cheers rang out for the 54 members of the Class of 2019 who entered the Fieldhouse for Lancaster Country Day School’s 111th commencement ceremony Saturday, May 25.

 

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Jack Kubinec delivered the student address, riffing on repetitious trips to art museums before turning serious and sincere with his metaphor.

“Paintings do not need to be explained; their meaning is shown by what they are. Similarly, our time at LCDS is best explained not by anything I could say but by who we are today. In a manner of speaking, we have the been the canvas, and we have been painted by LCDS. … The brushstrokes left on our lives serve as proof that our time here has real and special and meaningful.”

The graduating seniors chose Upper School Administrative Assistant Starleisha Gingrich to give the Faculty Address to the Class of 2019.

“The 54 of you have made [my first] year an absolute pleasure. And I chalk that up to one simple characteristic that I think you all have in common. You are all good people, with a capital G and P. … Even if you don’t socialize with someone regularly, I see the ways you interact with each other in the hall and those moments warm my heart,” Gingrich said.

Other speakers included Fourth Grade Teacher Crystal Meashey, who gave the invocation; Board of Trustees Chair Bernadette Gardner ’87; Head of School Steve Lisk; senior Jack Kubinec, who gave the student address; and History Department Chair Todd Berner, who gave the benediction.


Commencement Awards Given at the Ceremony

Thomas W., David W., and William M. won The Trustee Prize, awarded to the seniors with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Courtney C. won the Ruth S. Hostetter Award, recognizing a senior who has worked selflessly and enthusiastically to enhance the school community.

Alexandra J. won the Ann Musselman Award, given to the student who best exemplifies enthusiastic curiosity, the courage to take intellectual risks, and joy in a lifetime of learning.

David D.T. won the Faculty Award, given to the student who embodies a true love of learning, contributes to the intellectual life of the school, and is a model citizen.

Matt G. and Alexa S. won the Head of School Award, recognizing the seniors most deserving of special recognition for their leadership, school spirit, persistence, and civic virtue.

At an earlier awards ceremony, the following seniors received awards:
Music Award: Kendall K.
Karen Stork Memorial Award/Theatre: Kendall K., David W.
Visual Arts Award: Carly C.
Dance Award: Alexandra J.
English Award: Lauren N.
Elizabeth Ross Award: Sara S.
Lancaster History Award: David D.T.
History Award: David W.
Mathematics Award: Cara G.
Science Award: Matthew G.

Foreign Language Awards
French: Thomas W.
Latin: Tessa B., Marley K.
Spanish: Katherine S., Catherine W.
Chinese: Sophia H., Alexandra J.

Athletics Awards

Female Athlete of the Year: McKayla F.
Male Athlete of the Year: Luke W.
PIAA E. Jerry Brooks Award: Matthew G.
PIAA Fackler-Hower Sportsmanship Award: Allison M., Konrad L.

Other Awards

Jarvis Scholar Award: Hasan M.
Jarvis Citizen Award: Anna S.
LCDS Community Service Award: Gabriela N.
Helen Powlison Memorial Prize: Gabriela N.
Rotary Club of Lancaster Community Service Award: Gabriela N.
Danny Eshleman ’97 Memorial Award: Christopher M.
Jay B. Niesley Award: Ahsanti D.
Furman University Scholar: Abby G.
Williams College Book Award: Christian F.