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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Community Players Indulge in 'Scandal' Via Upcoming Show

Author: Laura Rockefeller Staff Writer

This weekend several associates of the Middlebury College community will take on new roles as they join other members of the Middlebury Community Players to present Richard Brinsley Sheridan's "The School for Scandal." The Community Players are looking forward to being able to take some risks and experiment with this, one of their smaller productions of the year.

The company has produced numerous shows over the last 25 years ranging from musicals to Shakespeare. They typically present one big musical in the spring, as well as various other productions on a lesser scale throughout the year.

Once the renovation is complete, the company's productions will be housed in the Middlebury Town Hall Theater. However, "The School for Scandal" will be peeformed in the Cornwall Town Hall. Melissa Lourie, director of "The School for Scandal," said that while the company looks forward to moving into the new theater, the open Town Hall feel of the Cornwall space fits very well for this production. It is a "very intimate and very charming" area and is a good backdrop for this English Georgian comedy.

Middlebury Community Players is strictly regional community theater, but John Nordemeyer, producer of "The School for Scandal" explained that being regional does not mean there are not experienced actors, largely because "Middlebury [College] attracts very talented people," and many of those working on this production have worked in professional theater in other parts of the country.

Although a number of people, such as set designer Elie Friml, are returning to work with the Community Players, "The School for Scandal" is a first time collaboration for many people, including costume designer Tia Anechiarico and Lourie. Lourie received formal training in acting at the American Conservatory of Theater, and later became the co-founder and producing director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Cold Spring, N.Y. She explained that she has been particularly excited about "The School for Scandal" as an opportunity to continue her move over from acting to directing.

Many of the participants from the College are returning actors like Tom Beyer, the Ross Commons faculty head. He and Nordemeyer, the information technology analyst for Middlebury's dining services, both began their association with the Community Players last year when the company produced "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Lourie explained that the choice for this year's play was fairly simple. After reading "The School for Scandal" with her book group, Lourie decided that she wanted to direct it.

The play has been described as the last great English comedy, following on the heels of Sheridan's other popular works like "The Rivals" and "The Duenna." Nordemeyer described it as "not raucous comedy, but a truly funny show." He pointed out that the show satirizes the decadence and extravagance of society in late Georgian Britain in a way that is surprisingly relevant today as America emerges from the sensationalism of the Clinton scandal.

"The School for Scandal" is the story of Sir Oliver Surface's return from India to decide which of his nephews is worthy of the fortune he has to bequeath. From there the story takes the audience on a ride through the intrigues of London society at the outbreak of the Industrial Revolution, when the moneyed people of the middle class were beginning to emerge and to try to figure where they fit in the elitist world. Nordemeyer explained that he "believes theater really is a process—the process of meeting people and collaborating together to create a piece," and this in many ways describes what this particular play is about as well. It examines how people's relationships change and evolve until people are finally settled in the place in which they want to be and feel they deserve in society.

Although this production will stay true to the period language of the script, it will be costumed in a 1940s style. Lourie said that she was inspired to move her version of the play from the late 1700s to the 1940s by the music of Louis Prima, who she described as a "jazz/swing singer of the '30s, '40s and '50s who showed the same spirit" as she saw in the writing of the play. Both show exuberance and an ability to gain some perspective on the world around them.

"The School for Scandal" will be presented in the Cornwall Town Hall on Rte. 30 with performances on Nov. 15 to 17 at 8p.m. and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at The Middlebury Inn or at