She Stoops to Conquer makes debut.
A group of Mount Allison drama students are currently making history with the inaugural show in the new Motyer-Fancy Theatre.
She Stoops to Conquer, written by Oliver Goldsmith and directed by Glen Nichols, opened Wednesday, Oct. 29. Nichols said he had a certain idea in mind when he chose it as the inaugural Motyer-Fancy Theatre play.
“It’s a comedy with a large cast, so lots of people are going to be involved,” said Nichols. “It’s a play with some name recognition, so people will know about it. And it’s a show in a period that offers opportunities to show off nice costumes, and to make it a pretty show as well.”
Nichols added that the play’s story is very appealing. He described the show as being a comedy “about mistaken identities and mistaken places” as characters deceive one another for the sake of mischief and love. All misunderstandings are eventually cleared up and lead to a happy ending.
“It’s very complex,” said third-year drama student Xavier Gould, who plays Young Charles Marlow in the show. “I think every character has more than one layer, because they’re constantly presented with different situations that makes us see a different level of the character.”
The actors spoke about the different challenges that they faced throughout the rehearsal process, including getting used to the unfamiliar theatre space.
“Even just the next show is going to be ten times smoother,” said Louis Marquette, who plays Tony Lumpkin. “We’re going to be more familiar with the space, as actors and as the technical crew and the directors.”
“I think I speak for all of us when I say the language was pretty hard,” added Kendrick Haunt, who plays Mistress Dorothy Hardcastle. Because She Stoops to Conquer was first produced in 1773, Haunt said that the script has “a lot of words and references that we don’t use now.” Haunt also explained that the majority of the characters are upper-class, meaning that the actors have to be very proper in their stage presence.
One highlight of She Stoops to Conquer is the costumes, the creation of which required a lot of consideration, said designer Decima Mitchell.
“[The early 1770s] is a period that is very elaborate in terms of costume, a very enormous silhouette which requires tons of fabric and lots of work,” said Mitchell. “Neither the budget nor the staffing resources do we have for such a show.”
To fix this issue, Nichols decided to base the costume design on the Jane Austen period, a couple of decades after the play’s first production, which featured fashions that were much more subtle, but still elaborate and beautiful. Mitchell described the costume design as “an approximation of the period.”
“This design is fairly straightforward in terms of a take on the period, with a focus on the silhouette of the period,” she explained. “It’s a period that many people are familiar with from having seen various movies based on the Jane Austen novels.”
The costume designs are intended to give the audience a very general idea of what Austen-era fashion looked like, with more modern additions like zippers making the costumes easier to make and wear.
In order to get used to them, actors wore certain costume pieces during rehearsals. Anna Shepard, playing Miss Kate Hardcastle, said that the she had to wear a special strap that restricted her movement. The strap is designed to keep an actress’ shoulders back, forcing them to stand up straight and maintain the proper posture that characterized the period. The actresses also wore long skirts, hats and bonnets and vests during rehearsals.
Marquette said that audiences will enjoy the light comedy that the play has to offer, and Gould added that “you can’t leave here not feeling happy.”
She Stoops to Conquer runs from Wednesday, Oct. 29 to Saturday, Nov. 1. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors, and $10 for general admission.