Ghosts and humor making an entrance in the fall production of ‘Blithe Spirit’
October 23, 2017
Books flying off shelves, ghosts appearing onstage, a stylized British accent and a dramatized seance will all be making an appearance in this year’s fall play: “Blithe Spirit,” according to the director, Ms. Meacham.
The play is more silly than scary, Meacham said, but there are moments with spooky stage gags — fitting for the show’s opening, right before Halloween weekend, Meacham said.
Set in the 1930’s and 40’s, “Blithe Spirit,” written by Noël Coward, tells the story of a novelist, Charles, who invites medium Madame Arcati to come and perform a seance in an attempt to contact the dead as research for his new book. Charles’s plans quickly spiral out of control when the ghost of his late wife, Elvira, comes to haunt him, much to the displeasure of his wife, Ruth.
“Noël Coward created very silly plays at this particular time period to lift spirits of the British people during the World Wars,” Meacham said. “A lot of his plays are ridiculous in many ways and a lot of the characters aren’t actually that sympathetic.”
The play also features a British dialect, which the actors have been working on throughout the summer. Meacham said she provided handouts, summer workshops, and one-on-one coaching to make the cast more comfortable with their lines.
Makeda Duncan, Div. 854, playing Ruth, has done lots of preparation to get into character.
“I like watching ‘Downton Abbey,’ so I’ve kind of known the accent for a while,” Duncan said. “I’ve always liked British accents. It’s hard because you have to remember that you’re a person of high esteem. You have to put yourself in the mindset of how a proper old person would talk.”
Duncan said the hardest thing for her to remember is dropping her R’s, something rarely done with an American accent. Duncan also said speaking in a different accent hurts her mouth.
“It sounds insane but you have to stretch your face before,” Duncan said. “It’s really tiring.”
Despite the struggles, Duncan thinks it’s interesting to know how other people in the world talk.
Along with the new dialect, the play also includes lots of British humor, which, according to the cast, is extensively different from American humor.
“It’s very verbal comedy, like playing on words and using interesting sentence structure to make a joke,” Duncan said. “The punch line often has to do with moving around the stage.”
Meacham said the humor is very quick, dry and sarcastic because of the time period.
Henry Zises, Div. 875, who plays Charles, thinks the humor is hard to spot.
“If you’re not looking for it, you’re not gonna find it,” Zises said.
The set will be a large room of a house, set up with a piano, couch and coffee table, but don’t be fooled; according to Meacham, the set is a lot more than just a room.
“There are supernatural forces at work, so the house becomes a bit of its own character,” Meacham said.
After months of work, the play will finally be shown to the public. Meacham said she is excited to see what happens to the actors and crew when an audience is present.
“You rehearse a play in a vacuum without any audience, without any feedback, and it is astonishing how different it is when there are people in the seats, when you know the performance is in front of other people,” Meacham said.
For some of the actors, this will be their last play at Lane. Zises said he took acting classes as a kid but first got into acting at Lane through the drama class. This is his third year in the fall play.
“You see the seniors and you’re like, man, I never thought I would end up being like that,” Zises said. “Now here I am and I’m thinking back to the seniors I’ve seen as the leads and it’s crazy to see what’s happened and how I’ve gotten here.”
The play opens Oct. 25 and goes through the 28th. Wednesday and Thursday performances start at 3:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $6 and will be sold at the door.