Life can be complicated if your first wife doesn’t like your second wife. Life can be very complicated if your first wife is dead and doesn’t like your second wife.
That’s the hilarious predicament of one man in the British comedy “Blithe Spirit,” by No�l Coward, to be presented by the West Virginia University School of Theatre & Dance, Nov. 17-Dec. 4, at the Creative Arts Center.
It all begins when a socialite couple, Charles and Ruth Condomine, decide to host a dinner party for the eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, so that Mr. Condomine can learn some tricks of the trade for his upcoming novel.
The scheme backfires during a s�ance, when they accidently conjure up the ghost of Condomine’s annoying and temperamental late wife, Elvira.
Now he must deal with the haunting presence of his first wife and the shrill badgering from his second wife. Through the experience, Condomine comes to learn that “till death do us part” is a total lie.
No�l Coward was one of the most popular, successful and entertaining writers in British history. “Blithe Spirit” was written in only five days, and first produced in London in 1941 and broke the record for longest running non-musical British play. It also did well on Broadway the same year and was adapted for film in 1945. Since then, it has also been adapted for television and for radio, as well as for a Broadway musical and several West End and Broadway revivals.
The director of the WVU production is theater professor Jenna Cole, currently in her third year at the Creative Arts Center, who directed last year’s popular “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.” She received her Master of Fine Arts in acting from the American Conservatory Theater and has taught at Chapman University and Pomona College. Jenna was a resident artist and teacher for 15 years at A Noise Within Theatre in Los Angeles, teaching speech, voice and Shakespeare.
Her work in Noel Coward plays includes appearances as Gilda in “Design for Living,” Judith Bliss in “Hay Fever,” Louise in “Private Lives,” and Marion in the American premiere of “Star Quality” at the Pasadena Playhouse.
“While acting in Coward plays, I fell in love with the truth and vulnerability of his characters, as well as with his witty dialogue,” Cole said. “It is such a challenge and delight to perform in and direct his plays, and I am constantly entertained watching the wonderful cast of ‘Blithe Spirit’ bring these characters to life.
“One of my favorite Coward quotes is, ‘Wit is like caviar. It should be served in small, elegant portions and not splodged around like marmalade.’ It is always good to remember to simplify!”
Assistant director and dramaturg is undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts theater major Mara Nadolski, who has also written a rehearsal blog for the production at: http://ccarts.wvu.edu/theatreanddanceblog.
According to Nadolski’s blog, the text of “Blithe Spirit” is spoken in a Received Pronunciation dialect of English, and WVU students in the cast also had to learn proper British manners and etiquette, such as how to greet another person, how to act at dinner parties, and even how to serve and drink tea.
“Proper manners are terribly difficult to remember,” Nadolski said. “Who knew it is incredibly rude to shake someone’s hand with your gloves on?”
The Ceramics Area of the School of Art and Design at the CAC and Homer Laughlin China Co. in Newell, W.Va., provided the greenware (unfired ceramics) that are prop d�cor on the set that gets smashed during the production by the ghosts.
The cast of “Blithe Spirit” features theater students Greg Jernigan as Charles Condomine, Megan Massie as Ruth Condomine, Sara Lemanski as Elvira, Branden Chowen as Dr. Bradman, McKenna Kirchner as Mrs. Bradman, Gailyn Neutzling as Madame Arcati and Sarah Reddy as Edith.
Production manager is theater professor Steven Neuenschwander, assisted by student Logan Garrett; scene designer is theater professor Robert Klingelhoefer, assisted by student Jane Ryan; lighting design is by student John Kiselica; costume designer is theater professor Mary McClung; and stage manager is student Krista Whites, assisted by Lindsey Dawson and Megan Hansberry. Sound designer is theater professor Alan McEwen, dramaturg mentor is theater professor Jay Malarcher, vocal consultant is theater professor Laura Hitt and dialect coach is theater professor Cathy O’Dell.
“Blithe Spirit” opens in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre of the Creative Arts Center, Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m., and continues Nov. 18 and Nov. 29-Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4.
The Dec. 4 matinee production will be interpreted for the hearing impaired.
Tickets are $20 for the general public, $18 for WVU faculty and staff and senior citizens, and $15 for students. There is a group rate of $10 per ticket for groups of ten or more.
For more information on this production of “Blithe Spirit,” please call 304-293-2020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
No�l Coward official website: http://www.noelcoward.com/
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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