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Homeschool Teens and Theatre Bell, Book, and Candle

By • May 5th, 2012 • Category: Cappies

The 1950s were a dark time for many minority groups in America. Radicals and outsiders of all kinds were confined to the edges of society, forced to conceal their forbidden feelings and beliefs or risk permanent exile from their communities. Even in the famed melting pot that is New York City, conformity was king. Gillian Holroyd knows this all too well, but her secret is more shocking than most: she’s a witch. The Homeschool Teens and Theatre Company tackled the deep subject matter of prejudice and suppression through comedy in their intriguing production of Bell, Book, and Candle.

Bell, Book, and Candle, written by John van Druten, first opened on Broadway in 1950, and was adapted into a 1958 feature film starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. It is the story of Gillian Holroyd, a witch who becomes infatuated with her upstairs neighbor, Shepard Henderson. When she learns he is engaged to her college rival, she decides desperate measures are in order, and enchants him to fall in love with her. As Gillian falls more and more in love with Shep, she must decide whether to confess her magical abilities to him and renounce her powers, or keep her lover in blissful ignorance of her true nature.

As Gillian, Katie Puschel carried the emotional weight of the show. She had a clear understanding of the inner turmoil of her character which she indicated through her expressions and reactions to her cast-mates. Although some other actors struggled to portray the age of their characters, Puschel carried herself with appropriate maturity and poise. She was clearly comfortable onstage during her extended scenes with her sweetheart, Shepard Henderson (Jakob Sudberry). The duo did an excellent job moving these conversations along and advancing the plot of the play with excellent memorization of their considerable volume of lines.

The small size of the cast allowed other performers to be prominently featured alongside the leads. Gus Hebner brought impressive energy to the role of Nicky Holroyd, Gillian’s meddling warlock brother. His jocular stage presence and authentic treatment of alcoholic drinks, both in accurate preparation and believable reaction to the bracing taste, were decidedly appreciated by the audience. Regan Fraas did an admirable job playing against gender as the author Sidney Redlitch. Her initially unsuspecting and later terrified interactions with Gillian were a comedic highlight of the show.

The meticulously detailed technical elements of the production added a welcome touch of realism to this supernatural comedy. The set designed by Gus Hebner was not only perfectly accurate for the time period, but it matched the tastes of Gillian beautifully, befitting of her double life as a witch, with a hodgepodge of mystical artifacts and ordinary implements adorning the walls. The costumes by Katy Rinaman contributed to the characterization and development of each performer, from Gillian’s evolving sense of style to Aunt Queenie’s appropriately bold patterns and ridiculous hats. The special effects crew created one of the play’s most memorable moments with the dazzling fire that accompanied one of Gillian’s spells.

There is nothing more universal to the human experience than love, longing, and loneliness. You don’t have to be a witch to empathize with the basic desire to be understood as you really are. Homeschool Teens and Theatre Company displayed a compelling search for acceptance in an unforgiving world in their production of Bell, Book, and Candle.

by Madelyn Paquette of McLean High School

Photo Gallery

Jakob Sudberry (Shep) and Katie Puschel (Gillian) Gus Hebner (Nicky), Kaiya Gordon (Queenie) and Katie Puschel (Gillian)
Jakob Sudberry (Shep) and Katie Puschel (Gillian)
Gus Hebner (Nicky), Kaiya Gordon (Queenie) and Katie Puschel (Gillian)

Photos by Katy Rinaman

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