This spring, the Covenant community can anticipate three performances by the Theatre Department: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, which is already well underway in terms of production; Peter/Wendy by Jeremy Bloom, which will be directed by Abigail DeGraaf (‘18); and a new tradition unfolding at Covenant, which will invite any member of the student body to partake in a showcase of student talent, regardless of background or experience. This revue will be led by Drama Club president, Maya Pirschel (‘19). Covenant College’s Theatre Department calls for the mountain’s attention, and from the excitement expressed by various members of the department, the attention is well deserved.
When asked about the current work on The Importance of Being Earnest, Will Payne (‘20) addressed a comical factor in this production: his role as Lady Bracknell. “On the practical side, taking this role is a fantastic chance to expand my grasp of the craft of acting. Cross-gender roles in the theatre, although rarely done at Covenant, have a history reaching back thousands of years.” Payne offered insight as to why it is not such a shock that a man would be cast as the female role, explaining that the character is often played by a man. “Christian actor David Suchet played [Lady Bracknell]; Brian Bedford and Geoffrey Rush played her. It’s an uproariously funny and interesting role for a male actor to play.”
To further note the impact that the cross-gender role has on the show, Payne revealed a bit about the content of the story itself. “One of the play’s primary lines of satire relies on over-exaggeration of gender to reveal the ridiculousness of traditional values…The whole play is about people pretending to be different than they really are. No one ever speaks a sincere sentence… plus, it is full of subtexts about gender, sexuality, and closeted identity. Casting Bracknell as a male actor helps to underscore those subtexts, and give the audience more to think about.”
Abigail DeGraaf, senior theatre major, has been granted the unique opportunity to expand her mastery of show production: she is to direct her very own play. With an open semester before she enters Covenant’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in the fall, DeGraaf requested to direct the upcoming show Peter/Wendy, a challenge that was granted with overwhelming support by Covenant’s Drama Club. “It will be incredibly helpful to have this experience as a graduate student and as someone interested in teaching drama.” DeGraaf reflects on her Covenant education fondly: “Experience in every aspect of production was offered by Covenant, so I’ll have some know-how in every area.” Currently, DeGraaf anticipates a healthy challenge in taking each part of a production and orchestrating it into one big picture.
DeGraaf believes it is important to create a vision for the story and the characters before going into casting and full-on production. With auditions right around the corner in early February, DeGraaf has been spending ample time reading the biography of playwright Jeremy Bloom and the work of J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan, which inspired the script of Peter/Wendy. In her preparation, DeGraaf feels she can obtain a vision for the show and cast a group of actors who will hold to and enrich that vision.
Drama Club president Maya Pirschel initiated a new tradition Covenant students can look forward to: a showcase of talent open to the public’s participation. According to Pirschel, the theme of the showcase is, “Parts I’ll never play/dream roles.” The theme alludes to the event’s purpose: an opportunity to perform for those who may not have time to commit to the department, or those who have very little experience in theatre.
Pirschel invites the student body to consider participating regardless of background or major. “There may be a play or musical that you’ve always wanted to be in but there was never the opportunity. Now you can take a moment from that show and just have fun with it.” Pirschel recalled her inspiration for the idea: her director in high school held a similar event. “I want people to come and showcase their talent, and we can all come together as a community and support each other with no judges and no auditions.” The event is expected to be held on Friday, March 23, and the students behind the production cannot wait to share the stage with Covenant’s community.