The Department of Theatre had originally planned to produce the classic stage play Our Town this spring. When, unexpectedly, the rights were no longer available, the Department Chair, Dr. Nina LeNoir, had to find a replacement for the season. “I didn’t have to look very far,” she says, “as the Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson’s play, The Rimers of Eldritch, is a perfect substitution.” The play, as it turns out, has the same ensemble feel of the original choice, requiring the actors to not only create characters, but a whole town of interesting people. Rather than being set in New England at the beginning of the 20th century (as in Our Town), the town of Eldritch is set in the middle of Missouri in the 1950s. Variety, in a review of the play, described it as “a play that mixes humor, compassion, anger, and suspense into a kind of social protest version of Our Town.”
Students have been rehearsing over interterm with guest director, Holly Derr. The interterm rehearsal process allows students to concentrate fully on the production, with rehearsals running 5 hours a day. Director Derr is also teaching students Viewpoints, an acting approach developed by Ann Bogart and Tina Landau that focuses on using movement and gesture as the impetus for acting, as part of the interterm project. Actor Meghan Keaveney (’15) says of the rehearsal process, “In working with Viewpoints, I’ve learned how to simultaneously express one physical impulse and another vocal impulse. It will be interesting to see which impulses the audiences will pick up on.” Khail Duggan (’13) has found “one of the most helpful tools I’ve learned during our rehearsal process is the ability to impulsively react to other actors’ movements and sounds or to ‘respond kinesthetically.’ It allows me to be surprised every rehearsal and leads to a scary, yet extremely fun experience.”
The students are working very hard on creating the wonderful and unique world of Wilson’s play. “As a cast, we’ve really explored the subtextual aspects of Wilson’s show. Each character has very specific desires, obstacles, and secrets that are subtly revealed throughout the many vignettes of the play,” relates Joseph Hirsch (’15), who plays the town outcast, Skelly. Angelia Formisano (’13) finds that “The Rimers of Eldritch presents many exciting challenges: specific dialect, fight choreography, the setting constantly alternating between the three seasons during which the play takes place, and Wilson’s incorporation of various hymns to be sung. It has been an incredible opportunity learning to tackle these obstacles throughout the rehearsal process and use them to our advantage in performing this wonderful play.”
For those of you who want to know what the term “rime” means, it is a granular coating of ice formed when water is supercooled—also known as hoarfrost. It is also the archaic spelling of “rhyme,” appropriate for a play that translates into sort of theatrical poetry, weaving a town full of characters into compelling drama.
The Rimers of Eldritch plays at the Waltmar Theatre February 16-18 and 23-25, 2012. Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for senior citizens and non-Chapman students. Tickets may be purchased by calling 714-997-6812 or visiting www.chapman.edu/copa.