Spotlight on the Colonial Players’ The Philadelphia StoryBy Laura & Mike Clark • Sep 10th, 2008 • Category: Interviews
Listen to Mike talk with Beverly Hill Van Joolen about the Colonial Players’ production of The Philadelphia Story [MP3 13:47 12.6MB].
Colonial Players Theater, Annapolis, MD
$20/$15 Student or Senior
Through September 27th
Mike: Hi, this is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio and today I am taking with the director of the Colonial Players current production of The Philadelphia Story. The director is Beverly Hill Van Joolen. Thank you very much for talking with me today, Beverly.
Beverly: Thank you. I appreciate you having us on.
Mike: So tell me a little bit about The Philadelphia Story. It is a classic, but other than that I do not know a lot about it.
Beverly: It is a classic. It is a play written by Phillip Barry. It was probably his most famous play. It kick-started Katharine Hepburn’s stage and movie career which was faltering at this time. Barry was friends with Katharine Hepburn and also friends with the Philadelphia Family who the characters are actually built around the character of Tracy Lord. It is a fun kick back to the romantic comedy, but it also actually touches on a lot of more serious issues and ideas of alcoholism, infidelity, and women’s place in society. The expectations women place on themselves as well as society places on them. It is a well rounded show that has something for everyone.
Mike: Is this the play, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the movie, is there a swimming pool scene where she is drunk?
Beverly: That is one of the famous scenes. There is the ex-husband, the current fiance, and there is a very interesting and intellectual, sort of a ruffled and unkempt reporter who is in her life at the moment. She is sort of marrying an up and comer who is taking over her father’s business. The family is not too sure about him when in comes this reporter to sort of cover up an affair that the father has been having. So it’s a whole convoluted fun thing. She sort of likes this reporter because he is very intellectual and different. After a night of a wedding party she gets a little tipsy and heads for he pool where the fiance finds her shortly thereafter. Luckily the ex-husband steps in and hits the reporter before the husband can. It turns into a real fun scene.
Mike: Why did Colonial Players decide to do this show?
Beverly: Interestingly enough it was one of our subscriber’s favorites. Even though some of our modern audiences have not heard or seen it, it is one of our subscriber’s favorites. We really like to poll our subscribers and our members to see what they are interested in, to see where their interests lie in as far as plays. This was subscribers and audience favorites. We actually did the play back in 1952 so at that time it was a relatively new play. Our audiences wanted to see it again so we were happy to bring it back to the stage.
Mike: I’m looking at the Colonial Players website and you have a huge range of shows this season. You have Rabbit Hole and A Christmas Carol, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Beverly: We do. We’re excited about this year. We have actually just implemented a series of shows. We used to do a couple less shows that ran for five weeks. This year we added two short shows that we are calling our Arc shows. The two Arc shows that we are putting in are shows that are kind of out of the ordinary, but are kind of politically interesting or more of a family show or a children’s show or they’ re an edgier show. We are excited to add them to our season this year.
We have a couple crazy comedies. Our season ender is Wonder Of The World which is a hysterical, bizarre, funky comedy. Then we have a classic like this one. Then we have an edgy sexy Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which was one at the movies as Dangerous Liaisons. It will be in English in course, but it was taken from the French book written in 17 something. The movie starred Glenn Close as a great sort of period historical drama. Then we are going to be putting on a great sort of fun murder mystery called Over My Dead Body. In between that we have our traditional A Christmas Carol which is always an audience favorite. Following A Philadelphia Story is a new comedy (Rabbit Hole) which I believe won a Pulitzer. It is about a family grieving over their lost son, but it is sort of a comedic version. It is not maudlin at all. It’s a very interesting take on a situation. This is followed by Two Rooms which is a political drama about a POW and how his wife handles the situation of him being gone.
Mike: It sounds exciting. Going back to Philadelphia Story. Tell me about the cast. Is it a large cast or is it pretty focused?
Beverly: It is actually a medium sized cast I suppose. My last show there was over 20 so this is about 12. We have a great age range in this show. The youngest sister is Dinah. She is 12. Uncle Willy is older. We probably will not give away his age. We have a very experienced cast this time. For a Summer show that had to rehearse all Summer and open as the first show was a great Summer fling for me because these actors were so experienced and such a delight to work for.
You have a few favorites who have done a few shows for us lately. Zarah Roberts in the lead as Tracy Lord. Her three leading men, in the movie Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart played two of the leading characters, Dexter Haven and Mike Conner. Playing those roles for us are Pat Reynolds who was in Hauptmann last year to great acclaim. The reporter is played by Ben Carr who has come back to theater after years away. It has been a delight having him in several shows this year. We have a great veteran actor Ed Wintermute who has been with Colonial Players for many many years and has done several shows. He plays Uncle Willie who is kind of the pincher they like to call him. He has a very fun comedic role. Jamie Miller plays the reporter/photographer Liz Imbrie. She is playing kind of a sassy top reporter cut – of the time because of course at the time it was tough to have a woman in the journalism business. She pulls that off just terrifically. She was a dancer and kind of a sexy kitten in our last show so this is a great challenge for her be be sort of a tough serious minded reporter. Veteran actor Richard McGraw plays George Kittredge, Tracy’s fiance. Marky Markowitz and Walt League play Tracy’s parents. Then our two younger actors play the brother and sister of Tracy Lord, Martin Thompson and Bronwyn van Joolen, and rounding out the cast as maid and butler are Stephani Morelli, and newcomer to theatre, Bill Hahn.
Mike: Did you have trouble getting the cast to work together?
Beverly: Like anything there is always a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but I have to tell you like I said for a Summer show the actors are all so professional and so giving to the community. I talked to them about this. All of our actors and our directors and all of our crew which all total is about forty people just working on this show, are all volunteers. I say to my cast at at Colonial when I do a show there that for us, we get a chance to be on stage and wear the costumes and get the applause, but for each of my actors there are several people behind the scene. We do it as volunteers because first we love the craft of acting and we love to be on stage and create the beautiful costumes and the scenes and the sets, but it is also a great community service because for many of our audience members it may be their first time in a theater. It may be their only time. Not everyone can run up to New York even as close as we are to see a show or even the Hippodrome is a little pricey sometimes. We offer high quality entertainment for a reasonable price. It is a great community service that we provide for our audience and our community. We of course enjoy it ourselves.
Mike: Was it difficult getting the set and the look of the show, both costumes and the set. Since you are a theater in the round that must be challenging, too.
Beverly: That is absolutely right. I did my first theater in the round at Colonial Players a few years ago and it was a challenge. A special challenge because we have an audience all around us and it is a very intimate setting. I believe we seat about 200, but do not quote me on that. It is really rather an intimate setting. If there is a string on the end of a skirt they see it. If the collar’s turned in they know it. We pay particular attention to our costumes and our set because the audience is sitting so close to them. We spent weeks and weeks with our costumers going to vintage shops and going on eBay, shopping around town and going to consignment stores finding things. Most of our costumes are vintage at least for the women are mostly all vintage. The men’s are close reproductions of that. That was a challenge and also a lot of fun. I have to be honest with you we had a great time with the costumes.
The set is tricky because you can not reproduce a beautiful indoor house and the patio and all that so we solved that mystery by having the first act indoors in the sitting room of the Lord’s home and then the second act is in the patio. That works really well and our set designer Edd Miller has created beautiful colors and textures for our actors to work in and for our audiences to watch.
Mike: Tell us a little bit about the other shows that you have worked on. Do you do acting as well?
Beverly: Yes I have done some acting. It is hard for me to say which I like better, directing or acting because I love them both. Directing I say is sort of exciting and terrifying all at the same time because it really sort of lies in your casting. If you get that right then the rest of your show is a lot easier and a lot more fun. I have been really lucky and Colonial Players draws some really great talent and some really giving people. You know you are in downtown Annapolis. It is a theater in the round and it is intimate. They have been there for years and years and years. They have a really solid administrative staff working behind the scenes to make sure our shows go well and that our patrons are happy.
The first show that I worked on was Jake’s Women and that was a relatively small cast. My last show was Kiss Me, Kate which had a huge cast and lots of big dance numbers and big medieval costumes. That was really fun. We even put a band in for that one, which was a great treat for audiences and for all of us. It is a much simpler process in a lot of ways not having a musical. But it is also kind of a bigger challenge because you have to focus on the acting and the dialogue becomes so important.
Mike: So tell people how they can get tickets to the show.
Beverly: You can go right online to www.CPlayers.com and click on our box office and you can order tickets right on line which is very convenient. You can come to our box office which is open an hour before the show and buy tickets then. We are often sold out, but we occasionally have tickets on stand by. So do not be afraid to come down and have dinner in gorgeous Annapolis and walk around the harbor. Then come an hour early at 7 and put in for stand by tickets because we usually have a few of those that are always available.
Mike: Is there anything else we should touch on about the show?
Beverly: I just think it’s a great show. Again something for everybody, from comedy to a bit of drama. You even have a fight scene which is a lot of fun. The music is fabulous. One of my favorite things as the director is after the show when I get to sit up in the tech booth or in an empty seat if we have one and watch the faces of the audience. For me that is one of the great highlights of being a director is watching the smiles and watching people nudge each other and make comments. And to see their toes tapping to the great music. We chose music very specifically for the era from 1934 to 1939. It is a lot of fun music to get to listen to and and it adds to the show. A lot of smiles from our audience members going out. A bit nostalgic and fun comedy and we love to see some of your audience come out.
Mike: Thank you very much for talking with me today, I do appreciate it.
Beverly: I do appreciate it. Thank you for having us on.
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.