Although sometimes it may be tough to bring back childhood memories, there are some you just can’t go wrong with- – like Pinocchio.
Southwestern’s theatre department will be putting on “Pinocchio” Nov. 17-21 in the Alma Thomas Theater. Day showings will be for school children to attend, while the night showings on Friday and Saturday and the day showing on Sunday will be for Southwestern students and the community.
“This show was developed for youth, but because this version of ‘Pinocchio’ by Leon Katz is closely based off of the original story by Carlo Collodi, its complexity surpasses most children’s stories,” senior and director Molly Rice said.
The cast of “Pinocchio” has gone through some very interesting rehearsals consisting of much exercise and movement work.
“The most fun parts of rehearsal have been the movement work,” sophomore performer Rachel Hoovler said. “We also worked with a professional clown the first week of rehearsal learning acrobatic stunts and other tricks, like juggling and balancing objects.”
Much rehearsal time for “Pinocchio” has dealt with this idea of incorporating animalistic movement into the characters as well as combining appropriate voice into that.
“We have done a lot of movement work in relation to the animalistic qualities of our characters,” Hoovler said. “The challenging part for me has been incorporating my physicality and my voice along with the lines and the blocking.”
At times, the cast has even been working out in Robertson in order to prepare for the show. Although early morning workouts aren’t many people’s favorites, the cast has kept good cheer and has put in much hard work in order to make this show a success.
They have also worked with a professional acrobatic performer from Indonesia to help with stunts, acrobatics and all of the physicality of the show.
“As far as preparation for Pinocchio goes, this has been the most physically demanding production that I’ve ever been a part of,” junior actor Chris Weirhert said. “After that week of acrobatic stunts, I could barely move my legs, but I definitely feel that all the intimate work helped our ensemble cast to build trust.”
Several of the actors and actresses have been asked to play several different roles, such as different animals. One of those exceptions is Weihert, who will be playing Geppetto.
“Playing Gepetto is definitely a new experience in many different ways,” Weihert said. “Aside from being my first-ever production on an SU stage, acting in ‘Pinocchio’ has called for a performance style drastically different than I am used to, one that depends on ultra-precise actions which can either make or break the show’s aesthetic.”
Weihert commented on the joy that he has had in getting to know his character and learning how to represent that on the stage.
“I’ve had a lot of fun learning about the kind of person that Gepetto is,” Weirhert said. “Apparently, for a man who lives alone building puppets all day, he’s a happy fellow with a brilliant sense of humor who finds joy in routine and simple pleasures, and I’m trying to allow that to translate onstage as much as possible.”
Every year Southwestern puts on a show related to their program titled Theater for Young Audiences. ‘Pinocchio’ happens to be that show this year with specific showings for the youth of Georgetown and the surrounding areas.
“This year we will have four daytime performances for local schools that see the show at no cost,” Rice said. “Southwestern’s theatre department has made a commitment to introducing youth to theatre and live performance and will continue its advocacy for the arts through this program.”
This show is expected to be an all-around success for audiences of all ages.
“I think the kids will really like the show,” Hoovler said. “I think students at SU will also be interested in the visual aspects of the show like the costumes, lighting and even the set itself.”
This article cannot be concluded without putting the spotlight on student-director Rice. Rice has been a powerful part of the theatre department for four years here at SU.
“Last year, I co-directed “This is Not a Pipe Dream” with professors Rick Roemer and Sergio Costola,” Rice said. “This was my first main stage production to direct, but I previously assisted on “SubUrbia” and directed a student show in the Black Box Theater my sophomore year.”
As the director of the show, Rice has a great responsibility but commented that the challenge has been rewarding and the support offered at SU has been very helpful.
“Pinocchio has been very challenging for me to work on in a myriad of ways,” Rice said. “Leading a production team to design and carry out your vision for a piece is something that takes years of experience to master. Luckily I’ve had extensive support from my professors and advisors in developing this project.”
From the content of the article above, it is no mystery how this show could appear to be a challenge but Rice does not fail to enjoy her responsibility and find joys in directing.
“Despite any challenges that ‘Pinocchio’ has offered, the rehearsal process and specifically working with the actors is my favorite part of directing,” Rice said.
“My concept for the piece gives the story a playful environment that makes ‘Pinocchio’ enjoyable for any age,” Rice commented.
As part of their continuing efforts to introduce young people to live theatre, Rice and the cast participated in a special enrichment activity with the Operation Achievement mentoring program. Students from the three Georgetown middle schools visited the theatre during their sessions this week to talk to the cast and learn about what it takes to put on a performance. The cast answered questions from the kids about the technical aspects of theatre and performed some of the stunts they have learned for the show. They have also arranged for the middle school students to receive a complimentary ticket to one of the weekend performances.
“OA would like to thank the Theater Department, Molly Rice and the Pinocchio cast for such a wonderful enrichment activity this week,” said Joni Ragle, director of the Operation Achievement program. “All the students and their mentors so enjoyed meeting the cast and watching them perform. And another thanks for not only sharing your time and your talents with us but also for your generous donation of tickets for the OA kids to attend the performance next weekend.”