By Pagie Wilson
On November 8, Theatre Sewanee premiered its fall production, Ring Round the Moon, written by Jean Anouilh and adapted by Christopher Fry. The play, revolving around a night of glamour and glitz and a high society French ball, introduces interesting characters including Hugo and Frederic, identical twin brothers; Diana Messerschmann, a bratty rich society girl; Isabelle, a dancer from the opera; and Patrice and Lady India, a pair of exuberant lovers.
The cast is mostly comprised of seniors. Heading up the cast is Oliver Crawford (C’14), playing the twins Hugo and Frederic. Throughout the show, Crawford has the difficult job of completely switching personalities and small costume details to become one brother. Other seniors include Pagie Wilson (C’14) as Isabelle, Sarah Weldon (C’14) as Isabelle’s mother, Hyatt Pyle (C’14) as Romainville, a patron of the arts, and Cody Snead (C’14) as Patrice, Lady India’s paranoid lover.
Other members of the cast include juniors, sophomores, and a freshman. Megan Quick (C’15) plays “a faded companion to a dowager.” Elise Anderson (C’16) plays Messershmann’s mistress and Patrice’s lover. Charlotte LaNasa (C’16) plays the spoiled millionaire Diana Messerschmann. Jack Russell (C’17) plays an old-world butler, and Audrey Tchoukova (C’16) and Alex Linton (C’14) appear as the footmen.
Pete Smith, the head of the theater department, as Messerschmann, and his wife, Karen Pelfrey Smith, playing Madame Desmortes, Hugo and Frederic’s wise aunt, also joined the cast.
“It has been such a treat to act in a play with Pete and Karen. It is not every production that you get to perform a scene with one of your professors, and I feel like I learned a lot from what they both brought to the stage,” said Wilson.
Since Smith acts in some scenes, he was not able to view the scenes from an audience’s perspective. Beckett Scott (C’14) acted as assistant director to help smooth over the blocking and attitudes of these scenes.
“It was great to watch Pete’s process and I was able to learn more about directing a major production from Pete,” said Scott. This show was great preparation for Scott as she will be directing the spring production by herself.
Set in the 1920s, the cast learned the wonders of 1920s clothing, hairstyles, makeup, and including the correct way to wear garters. Josie Guervara-Torres (C’15) designed every costume, hairstyle, and makeup for each character. Every dress was made from scratch, with Guervara-Torres carefully selecting the fabric and pattern to make. This job was more difficult than usual because this show involved many characters and two costumes for each character—before and during the party.
“Your mind doesn’t stop working,” Guervara-Torres said, “It’s fun to see the details come to life on stage, but watching it on stage sometimes I can see all of the little things that can go wrong. Some of the actors are helpless when it comes to these fashions, which can be difficult, but overall the experience has been very rewarding.”
Dan Backlund, the theater’s Renaissance man and professor of design, scene painting, scuba diving, and much more, designed the set. Rather than building a proscenium style stage, Backlund took the idea of a Roulette wheel and designed an arena stage with an audience on all four sides. This makes the actor’s job a little more difficult because he or she has to be aware of playing to each side instead of just a few. It requires constant attention.
Anderson remarked, “This show has been a blast! When the director tells you, ‘Make your character as over-the-top and ridiculous as possible” you know you’re in for a treat. As always, the cast becomes a big dysfunctional family. I’ll definitely be sad when it’s over! Also, the costumes in this show have been my favorite of any play I’ve ever been in.”
Ring Round the Moon runs through this weekend Thursday November 14, Friday November 15, and Saturday November 16 at 7:30 in the Tennessee Williams Center.