A group of students, alumni and faculty from Northwestern State University took part in ending what may be one of the longest leadups to a play’s debut ever.
This weekend, they collaborated with international faculty and a professional actor for what is likely the first reading of a play by 18th century British writer Jermyn Pratt, “The Grange.”
Northwestern State Assistant Professor of Theatre Dr. Richard St. Peter worked with Dr. Ema Vyroubalova of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and her husband, Dr. James Wood of the University of East Anglia in England to arrange the reading.
Vyroubalova met St. Peter several years ago when he guest lectured at Trinity College. Vyroubalova and Wood have been researching Pratt.
It was really kind of amazing to be the first people to read out loud this nearly 250-year old play,” said St. Peter. “Ema and James, think it was written sometime in 1771-72 and there is this kind of strange fault line in British theatre between the mid-18th century and the end of the 18th century so finding this play is like a missing link anthropological discovery. Our students, alumni and faculty were there to participate in and witness the discovery of this 18th century artifact.”
St. Peter complimented the students and alumni, saying “our actors were across the board terrific in their readings.” The cast was largely theatre majors and included a music and English major.
The cast included English professional actor Tony Haigh, a retired professor from Centre College in Kentucky, and Scott Burrell, director of School of Creative and Performing Arts at NSU.
Alumni participants were Jesse Kortus and Cassidy Giddens of Shreveport, Bethany Lee and Emmanuel Dunn of Baton Rouge and Anna Gautreaux of Houma. Current NSU students taking part were Myjoycia Cezar and Summer Jones of Shreveport, Jesse McFarland of Tyler, Texas, Ryland Mandel of New Orleans, Kaylon Willoughby of Ponchatoula, Ruben Smith of Clayton, Chloe Castello of Baton Rouge, Taijha Silas of Pineville and Beth Olin of Thibodaux.
“I had a lot of fun during the play reading,” said Giddens, who used a British accent for the reading. “It was challenging reading a selection that has never been done before by any other actor, so it gave me the opportunity to come up with a character completely on my own.”
According to Giddens, a reading differs from a rehearsal because there is no use of the body and all the emotion and subtext comes from the voice. She pointed out that the actors can use the script and don’t have to rely on memorization.
St. Peter is a strong believer in making sure students have some sort of global component to their education.
“The term ‘global’ doesn’t exclusively mean ‘study abroad.’ One can have a global experience while never leaving their campus,” said St. Peter. So in this instance, we had a play about a very specific region of England that is being researched by faculty from Trinity College in Dublin and the University of East Anglia in England, we had a British professional actor join us in the reading but by and large the characters were brought to life by Louisiana college students and that kind of cross cultural global exchange is one I believe is very beneficial in the development of our students as citizens of the world.”
For information on Northwestern State’s Department of Theatre and Dance, go to capa.nsula.edu/theatre.