By Sarah Pride; poster by Brett Harris
Patrick Henry College
Gripping themes of suspense, action, danger, and justice drew senior Eden Troupe director Ben Guido to choose Wait Until Dark, written by Frederick Knott, as the first play of the troupe’s spring 2010 semester, scheduled to run Feb. 26-27 and March 5-6. A more light-hearted objective compelled co-directors Aidan Grano and Lillie Schmidt to select Jerome Robbins’ Peter Pan for the student-run drama group’s second spring play, April 23-25.
“We chose it specifically as a comedy, something that can be just for kids,” says Grano. “We miss in daily life the ability to look outside reality in the way a kid can do.”
Since members of PHC’s inaugural class formed Eden Troupe in the College’s first year, the drama group has produced at least one play each semester. In recent years, as Eden Troupe has grown and matured through experience, students have increasingly looked to attract the surrounding community to its productions, staging plays off-campus in nearby venues and reaching out to local schools. As members of the Eden Troupe Board, Schmidt and Grano have in particular sought a wider audience, and hope to stage Peter Pan at a nearby middle school.
Wait Until Dark, on the other hand, will be performed on-campus in PHC’s Town Hall. In this psychological thriller, a blind woman faces three criminals who seek to trick her into revealing the whereabouts of a mysterious doll her husband has brought home. The play involves an “intimate” eight-member cast, says Guido, a size that allows him to work on “characterization . . . more so than in a 25-person cast.” Guido suggests that this suspenseful play might be too intense for small children, but would probably appeal to those who enjoy clinging to the edge of their seats for a couple of hours of high drama.
“It’s not your usual kind of play,” he laughs, “but then, I’m not your usual kind of person.”
Meanwhile, the Peter Pan team started preparing for its elaborate production at the end of the fall 2009 semester. Robbins’ play ran on Broadway in the ‘70s and ‘90s and includes both song and dance. Grano and Schmidt asked seniors Tia Ly and Christy Hailes to serve as their music director and choreographer, respectively, while senior Krystal Brunner will produce. This team of seniors expects to turn out a top-notch production.
“In a physical, tangible way, we are putting imagination on the stage,” says Grano. “Our relatively low budget forces us to be more creative, and our set is one of the most creative concepts Eden Troupe has ever developed.”
When they graduate in May, Schmidt and Grano see different career paths ahead. Schmidt says that while she doesn’t foresee in a career in theatre, she also cannot picture “completely stopping” her involvement with drama. Grano fully intends to pursue a graduate degree in theatre, although he “doesn’t know when or where.” Both are excited about working with Eden Troupe their last semester.
“Working with our cast is so much fun. They catch on so quickly,” says Schmidt.
Tickets are available via credit card before 4pm from the PHC Bookstore: 540-441-8860. After 4pm on performance days, you can purchase at the door until showings sell out.