Restoration style will be mixed with contemporary trimmings when the SUNY Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance presents the next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series.
Six performances of "The School for Scandal" will be presented from Nov. 6 to 10 in Marvel Theatre. This comedy of manners was written by Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1777 and has been described by critic as "perhaps the most finished and faultless comedy we have."
While it was written more than two centuries ago, "The School for Scandal" is a work that carries a message to which modern audiences can relate, according director James Ivey.
Joseph Service (Steve Russell), left, makes a point to Sir Peter Teazle (Jim Drake) as Lady Teazle (Brittany Noel Bassett) looks on in a scene from “The School for Scandal” at SUNY Fredonia.
"I believe that 'The School for Scandal' continues to be revived due to the universal qualities found in the characters and the story of the play," Ivey said. "The witty dialogue of Sheridan takes the comedy of manners style from the English Restoration period and brings it to a more sentimental conclusion as virtue is rewarded and vice is punished. The characters are instantly recognizable to our contemporary world and they are very funny. The dialogue has some pretty delicious attributes for actors as well."
Ivey said the production embraces some conventions of the 18th century theatre while also looking to contemporary times.
"The costumes of Dixon Reynolds, faculty designer, take their cues from the world of haute couture fashion as he looks to the exaggerated fashions of high society in the 1770s. The magnificent scene design of student designer, Ryan Miller, takes some of its inspiration from the Georgian period as well. As the centerpiece of Ryan's design is an ingenious turntable unit that has presented technicians with all sorts of challenging issues; it turns as well as tracks across the floor at the same time.
Another modern aspect of the production will be the incorporation of social media.
"To reinforce thematic elements of slander and gossip found in the play, the actors are also playing their characters on Twitter," Ivey explained. "Each actor has a Twitter account for their character and they are currently building a subculture of gossip through that outlet. The actors will be 'tweeting' during the performance of each show from backstage and onstage as well. We are reserving the last two rows of the Marvel Theater for each performance for patrons to follow the #FredScandal Twitter Feed, in addition to having 'Twitter Night' on Friday, Nov. 8 when the whole theatre may tweet to their heart's delight. Instructions will be given to those who wish to join the live Twitter feed."
More than 100 students are involved in this production.
"It is a mammoth effort to say the least," Ivey said. "We started the design process last spring in March after the play was chosen in February. We cast the play in April of last semester and began our rehearsals in earnest on Sept. 9."
Ivey believes audiences will appreciate the end result.
"The sets and costumes are worth the price of a ticket alone, in my opinion," he said. "But the actors in the production are creating unique characterizations with Sheridan's fascinating personalities. Combined with an original score by Sean Doyle we should see a unique look at a play whose message still speaks to us."
Six performances of "The School for Scandal" are planned from Nov. 6 to 10 in Marvel Theatre. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 6; Thursday, Nov. 7; Friday, Nov. 8 and Saturday, Nov. 9. There will be 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, Nov. 9 and Sunday, Nov. 10.
"'The School for Scandal' can be an amusing evening in the theatre that presents a cautionary message on the misleading nature of appearances and how reputations can be ruined or tarnished through jealousy and maliciousness," Ivey said.
Tickets are available through the SUNY Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online at fredonia.edu/tickets.
"The School for Scandal" is part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.