Previewing the Fall Play: Clue: On Stage
In light of Fall Parents' Weekend, the Periwig Club performed a 80-minute dark-comedy play titled Clue: On Stage this past Thursday and Friday, and will perform once more this upcoming Saturday.
In light of Fall Parents' Weekend, the Periwig Club performed a 80-minute dark-comedy play titled Clue: On Stage this past Thursday and Friday, and will perform once more this upcoming Saturday. The play will be set in the Black Box Theater in the Kirby Arts Center with both in-person and simulcast performances. The simulcast performances are designed to cater to remote-learning students and parents who also want to watch the play virtually.
Although this year's production differs from the usual large-scale musical, Director of Theater and Theater Teacher Matthew Campbell commented, "We want to keep theater alive. Lawrenceville had put so much time, thought, meaning into really working hard to bring people back, so [we wanted to meet] that gold standard. The theater program had to attempt to mirror [this effort]." The play was chosen primarily because it fit government guidelines for social distancing protocols on stage but also because it contained hints of political comedy. It was created in 1954 during an era of McCarthyism, which Campbell thought would be suitable for this year because "we're in a political year right now" and the play "does have a tinge of political humor and it does have a tinge of not trusting other people, which is very much part of our national climate."
According to Zack Finacchio '21, the lead actor who will be playing the main character Wadsworth, "Clue is a multi-faceted, interactive, cataclysm of joy, mystery, confusion, and illusion…Murder's in it too." The play is a murder mystery that explores the journey of six characters—Mrs. Peacock, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, and Colonel Mustard—who show up to a dinner party and discover that Mr. Boddy, the host who had coincidentally blackmailed all of them, had been murdered by one of the guests. Wadsworth, a butler with an English-accent, is also among the few at the mansion.
According to Finacchio, the most challenging aspect of playing a "very secretive, conniving, and very proper" character was learning how to grasp Wadsworth's accent. To him, Clue is a play that balances plot darkness with its comedic genre, and some of his co-performers have expressed similar sentiments. Ashley Gelber '21, who will be playing the role of Yvette, a sexy French maid, expressed that the play has "many zingy one-liners that [she] know[s] people are going to be saying." Gelber believes that her character's alluring and unique persona has provided her with deeper insight into what it means to assign depth into a role, especially the more unconventional ones. "You can take any character and give them a motive," she said. Similar to Finacchio, she also found the learning of a new accent one of the most challenging and nerve-wracking parts of her role.
Unlike years prior, the 2020-2021 school year has come with a host of changes in its schedule and framework; the theater department is certainly no outlier. The preparation process leading up to the final premiere has been a rollercoaster of emotions for the entire production team. Beginning with virtual auditions, communication through Zoom played a critical role in developing the show. From discussing character portrayals to acting out scenes, the actors have been continuously engaging with each other online; it wasn't until two weeks ago that they were able to rehearse, for the first time, in person.
This year, the production team faced many obstacles, such as meeting strict social-distancing regulations and a severe time-crunch, which became significant causes of worry for the team, especially as the performance dates became more of a reality than an arbitrary time. The set design process was also shortened, and Campbell and Technical Director and Drama Teacher James Cuthrell had to create a full set within a matter of three weeks.
"Having rehearsals over Zoom for most of our time together and only getting two weeks on stage meant that [the] actors were learning their blocking at the same time technicians [were] learning their shifts. Lighting and sound cues were [simultaneously] being programmed, all processes that are usually more spread out with more time to complete," commented Ben Polaski '21, who is the Stage Manager of this year's production.
The rehearsal process was not ideal for all of the cast members either. According to Mason Du '21, who will play the role of Professor Plum, an arrogant academic with a sleazy past, "Everything was on the fly. Even from now to show night we still may pass some alterations." Some actors, including the leads, were even afraid that they would forget their lines on-stage due to lack of collective preparation.
However, despite these evident challenges, the production team is still incredibly hopeful. "I think this show is an embodiment of our school’s resilience," said Gelber. The actors collectively agreed that although Covid-19 made Clue's premiere more difficult, the pandemic also created a new and exciting experience for everyone.
"We've still come together to put on an unforgettable, completely unorthodox show," said Du. He also added that he was excited to see how the actors had adapted to safe-distancing restrictions, pushed through difficult situations, and reunited as a community.
"Honestly, I'm actually just so grateful to be here in any shape or form," said Orlando Doull '21, who plays Colonel Mustard.
"I hope to see people enjoying the production and feeling engaged, and that they are able to come here and see that live theater can be done, and that art is a fulfilling, healing exercise of the soul," summarized Finacchio.
The production team remains proud of the hard work they put into the show and is more than excited to showcase its own version of Clue because, as brilliantly said by Gelber, "art never stops."