‘Trelawny’ whirls into Harper Joy with love, intrigue, hoop skirts

Clara Bartlett

From Thursday, May 3 through Sunday, May 6, Harper Joy Theatre presents “Trelawny” on the Alexander Stage, adapted from Sir Arthur Pinero’s “Trelawny.” The performance will be repeated again during Commencement Weekend, from Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, May 19.

Credit: Allie Felt

After attending rehearsal, with much singing, choreography and hoop skirts, The Pioneer sat down with director and Garrett Professor of Dramatic Art Nancy Simon for an interview. Simon explained the play’s dramatic arc.

“It’s about a theatre company in London in the 1860s,” said Simon. “The young woman who is the stir of the theatre company comes and falls in love and becomes engaged to an aristocrat. It’s about the conflict of the gypsies of the theatre and the limitations of the aristocracy.”

Dealing with a large ensemble cast has presented both difficulty and support.

“It’s a huge, huge show,” said Simon. “We’ve got 24 people in the cast, lots of scenery, 55 costumes. So it’s just the scope thing that has been an enormous challenge. They’re very much a company––the play opens with a song called “Pull Yourself Together” and they have pulled together. Lately we’ve had illness and conflict––and someone always steps in and takes over when someone’s missing. They all help each other out.”

Credit: Allie Felt

“‘Trelawny’ is a love letter to the theatre,” added senior theatre major Caitlin Goldie. “This cast is very different from those of most Harper Joy plays. There are not only students, but faculty members, Whitman alums, and children of faculty. As a result, we started as a more disparate group than other shows I’ve worked on. Now, I think we’ve really come together as a company. The play is about a theatre company including members of all ages, and I think our cast suits it well!”

First-year cast member Kathryn Bogley mirthfully reflected on her biggest obstacle with the play.

“The most challenging part of ‘Trelawny’ is trying to figure out how to move in the huge hoop skirts. It makes it much more difficult to dance from point A to point B, but they are also really fun!”

Simon elaborated on her approach as a director for coordinating such a diverse cast and intricate play.

“You know what Steven Sondheim says, ‘bit by bit putting it together’––that’s what it is,” said Simon. “You start at the beginning, you continue hacking away at it and keep trying new things and hopefully you finally find things that communicate, coalesce and entertain on opening night.”