Theater students play 18th century actors
Theater students dressed in 18th century garb and periwigs stood in a hall of the Creative Arts Building as they prepared themselves for their most recent play, “The Stage Mutineers.”
The musical comedy had its first showing in the Studio Theatre at SF State Nov. 7 and ended Nov. 11, under the direction of theatre arts professor Joel Schechter. Students played acclaimed 18th century actors and managers from Drury Lane, London, who refused to perform their parts unless their demands for better roles were met.
Originally published anonymously and attributed to Edward Phillips, the play itself dates back to 1733 and has not been performed a great deal since then, according to Schechter.
“The play is a comedy, responding to this event and it makes fun of both sides, the actors and the managers,” said Schechter. “It is a play about the theater and about the rebels but it is not necessarily on either side.”
This revamped version of the play featured live music, hoop skirts, eccentric wigs and a storyline of actor mutiny. The performers were cast at the beginning of the semester from Schechter’s “Acting: The Play” class.
“A lot of times with restoration pieces a lot of people snooze out since they are so boring sometimes but this one has music, and it’s lively, there is guitar and with these period-esque songs the music composition is also really cool,” said Kathleen Lee, the stage manager of the play.
Not only were the actors challenged to embody the role of actors in a play within a play, but two of the female actresses played male stage managers with authoritative personalities from another decade.
Hazelette Garner, the first manager in the play, discussed their male-inspired practices to play their 18th century roles.
“We did a lot of exercises of how people moved back in that era,” said Garner. “For a couple of sessions we would start our warm-ups just by walking around as men and bowing how a man would.”
Tackling the challenge to play a different gender didn’t end at warm-ups, though.
“One of the biggest challenges in this has been trying to remember how a man would stand because men don’t normally rest on their hips,” said Hannah Cook, a theater student at SF State who played the part of the second manager in the play, “but the further we got along, it just became more fun just to stomp around.”