Monday, April 23, 2012

Laugh Alot-"Charley's Aunt" Opening May 4th At The James F. Dean Theatre In Summerville

Original "Charley's Aunt" 1892
The classic comedy, "Charley's Aunt", will open May 4th at the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville. It will run through the month of May with the final performance on Sunday, May 20th. The wrap-up preparations are in the final stages. The cast are fine tuning their lines and stage scenes are being tweaked. The stage designers have merged their creative and artistic skills in the construction of a circular-rotating stage to handle the various scene changes that will take place during the play. And, even though the play has a history that dates back over a hundred years ago, the antics and concept of the play are timeless.

The original play script was written by Brandon Thomas in 1892. "Charley's Aunt" was the most successful of his plays. It opened at the Theatre Royal in England. It concluded its record breaking run of 1,466 performances in 1893 at the Globe Theatre, setting historic records for plays of all kinds. It was also a success on Broadway in 1893. There have been film adaptations through the years. The most notable of the film adaptations, "Where's Charley", was released in 1952. It starred an actor who became famous for his lovable portrayal of a talking scarecrow in the mystical land of OZ and sang, "If I only had a brain." His name was Ray Bolger.

England is the geographic location of "Charley's Aunt". The setting is St. Olde's College, Oxford. The play is about two college chums(Charley and Jack) who are in love with a couple of girls(Amy and Kitty), an uncle of one of the girls, the father of one of the boys, a temporarily absentee rich aunt, and a reluntant fellow grad student the two boys coerse into cooperating in a scheme they concocted so they can spend some amorous time with their love interests. Picture in your mind an odd-looking Victorian old lady in a long black-satin dress with a cigar in her mouth. What starts out as an innocent deception evolves into a menagerie of humorous complications.

With the script already written, the Flowertown Players went to work on the material aspects of the production. Set design needed to be tackled. After designing the various components and calculating the proper dimensions on his computer, Ernie Eliason began work on the circular-rotating stage back in March around the same time as the Flowertown Festival in Summerville. It was then I visited the prop shop located in the back of the theater where the manual task of set construction begins. Ernie was marking and cutting the various top sections of the stage out of plywood according to a pre-cut pattern determined from his designs.
Ernie Eliason working on stage construction
Ultimately, the pieces would be mounted on a rotating platform with wheels around its perimeter on which it would rest and turn. Once that was completed, it was mounted to the main stage. Then, Sean Lakey, artistic director, and various volunteers began building and painting the three different scenes that will be utilized in giving the audience the visual backdrop needed to bring the play to life.
Rotating-circular stage and set construction
Yours truly working with Sean Lakey on the stage scenes
The cast of "Charley's Aunt" consists of 10 characters made up of local residents who auditioned for the parts months ago. Since, the chosen few have been putting their lines to memory. They have been primed and will be ready to "break a leg" for you on Friday, May 4th at 8 pm, opening night. Come and see how Jack and Charley's scheme unfolds and what part Charley's aunt plays in its attempted success. Purchase your tickets ($20) today and join the fun. Show your support for Summerville's local actors and artists. It promises to be very entertaining and funny. Enjoy the pictures and ponder over of this parting thought: "I take the time to set the stage, make sure everything is in place. Even though I've got the lines rehearsed, a picture only paints a thousand words."

Lord Fancourt Babberley - Matthias Burrell
Ela Delahay - Erin Gentry
Jack Chesney - John Black
Kitty Verdun - Alexa-Marie Acura
Charles Wykeham - David Whittington
Amy Spettigue - Lindsay Shattuck
Colonel Sir Francis Chesney - Barry Gordon
Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez - Lindsey Marie
Stephen Spettigue - Ken Malcolm
Brassett - Jerry Squires

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