Production is now under way for Clarion University's next theatrical performance, William Shakespeare's "All's Well that Ends Well," which begins Nov. 14.
Directed by theatre professor Robert Bullington, the play tells the story of the young commoner Helena, played by senior Katie Forsgren, Erie, who is in love with the conceited nobleman, Bertram, played by senior Nic Barilar, Rossiter. Despite Bertram's disinterest, Helena persists throughout the play in trying to win him over.
"All's Well" is Bullington's eighth Shakespeare production at Clarion, and he feels he's going back to his roots.
"I started out doing the (plays) that people haven't seen," Bullington said. "The last three have been, arguably, Shakespeare's most popular—'Romeo and Juliet,' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Macbeth'—and not that many people know this one. That's part of the reason we're doing it."
Bullington also mentioned that "All's Well" includes a number of good parts for women, a rarity in early-17th-century theatre.
Among others, "All's Well" addresses themes of unrequited love, defying authority, truth and honor.
"There are barriers with Shakespeare," Bullington said. Most important, he said, is the language barrier. "Only Shakespeare scholars will understand every word being said, but if (a Shakespeare play) is acted well, the audience always knows what's going on."
Bullington includes a short plot summary in each night's program. "It's not cheating to come in at 8:45 and read the synopsis," he said, encouraging students of all backgrounds and levels of Shakespearean experience to attend the show. "These are 400-year-old plays that we still do. It's part of our history. It's who we are."
The play will be staged in a "thrust" configuration, with the audience surrounding the action on three sides. As Bullington noted, this setup allows for more audience interaction.
"The idea of (the audience) being in the dark — pretending they're not there — is a new idea," Bullington said. When this play was originally performed, he said, "the audience would have played a big role."
Theatre professor Ed Powers is in charge of the play's scenic design. Though written in the early 1600s, the design team is applying a "Romance era" look to the production. "We're borrowing — because that's what we do in theatre, we borrow — from painters, architects and the wardrobe of about 1820 to 1835," Powers said.
Powers looks to make Clarion's "All's Well" into a more classical Shakespearean production. Instead of changing backdrops to establish different scenes, the production team will rely on lighting and set pieces to tell the play's story. Kendyl Yarzabek, Warren, Pa., is the show's lighting designer, in charge of distinguishing one scene from the next by highlighting different parts of the stage and blacking out others.
The play's romantic look was suggested by theatre faculty member Myra Bullington, who serves as the show's costume designer. Taking the show out of its Elizabethan era, "we have to be careful that the period supports the ideas inherent in the text, not detracting from them," Bullington said. "There's a very wistful quality to the clothes of (the Romance era) ... and the play has a wistful quality, as well." Bullington also noted that, historically speaking, the decade in which the play is now set was fairly uneventful.
"All's Well that Ends Well," runs Nov. 14-18 in the Marwick-Boyd Little Theatre. The evening performances begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with Sunday's matinee beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for children and free for students with a Clarion University ID. Tickets can be purchased online or via telephone at 814-393-ARTS.
In addition to Forsgren and Barilar, the cast includes: Maggie McWade, Fleming, as the Countess of Rossillion; Jared LoAlbo, Verona, as Parolles; Christian Ryan, Lansdale, as LaVatch (the fool); Clarion University English professor Ralph Leary as the King of France; Rob Milanich, Rockville, Md., as Lafew; Jack O'Keeffe, Clifton Heights, as Captain Dumaine; Matt Catledge, Philadelphia, as First Soldier; Jordan Rembold, Franklin, as Second Solider/Steward; Becca Sears, Damascus, Md., as the Widow; Marie Karcher, Allison Park, as Diana; Arielle Fodor, Latrobe, as Mariana/French Lady.
Understudies include: Chloe Saccol, Johnstown; Kaylee Scritchfield, Peckville; and Allyson Watt, Pittsburgh.
Leading the play's technical team are: Megan Bodish, Bridgeville, stage manager; Powers, scene design; Bullington, costume design; Yarzabek; Hank Bullington, Clarion, properties design; and John Dumpman, York, sound design.
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