Joseph Strasser ’53, G’58, H’20 was just 8 years old in 1940 when he and his brother escaped Nazi persecution on a Kindertransport rescue boat. Two years earlier, the Third Reich had annexed their home country, Austria. Their father, Paul,…
SU Drama, Syracuse Stage collaborates on holiday presentation
SU Drama, Syracuse Stage collaborates on holiday presentationNovember 21, 2001Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
As a large crowd gathers in Syracuse Stage’s Coyne Lobby to attend a production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” about 10 drama students are tucked away in a second-floor rehearsal room, working the bugs out of one of the production numbers for “Oliver!” which opens Nov. 27.
The students have been there since 5:30 p.m., working at first with musical director Corinne Aquilina and later with choreographer Anthony Salatino, associate professor of dance in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
The students-sophomores Jeffrey Dublinske, Nicole Dupras and Jonathan Verge, and junior Ronit Feldman- are cast in the roles of the street vendors, and they are also part of Fagin’s gang. They and the two boys who will share the role of Oliver Twist, Wesley Callihan of Liverpool and Matthew Dengler of Baldwinsville, sing segments of “Who Will Buy” over and over again as Aquilina helps them mold their technical and artistic presentation of the music into a finished work of art.
As the students work with Aquilina, Salatino dances in the studio space behind them to work out his ideas for adding movement to the number. From time to time, he picks up one of the stage props to better envision how the movements and music will interlock as tightly as pieces of a puzzle. The students finish working with Aquilina and immediately start rehearsing with Salatino-no rest for the weary.
Dupras, who plays the rose seller, is up first. The students begin the song yet again, as Salatino glides across the floor in front of Dupras, who attempts to match every movement, every nuance Salatino makes. The process continues as Salatino adds one vendor at a time, until finally all four are moving across the floor with their props in a sequence of steps designed to avoid collisions while appearing graceful and artistic.
This is the second year in a row that Syracuse Stage and the Drama Department have joined forces for a unique holiday presentation. Last year, the two groups presented “Peter Pan.” In “Oliver!” 12 students and two local child actors are working beside six professional Equity actors. Students say the opportunity to work alongside of professional actors provides learning experiences they simply can’t get in a classroom.
“Working with the professional actors is an incredible experience,” says Josh Young, a junior musical theatre major who plays the Artful Dodger. “They are a valuable resource for me and for all of the students in the show.”
To prepare for his role, Young read books about the life of 19th-century pickpockets. “I learned how they lived, walked, talked, where they slept,” Young says. “The research helps me create the character. It’s great to be able to apply what we learn in the classroom to a professional production.”
The schedule is hectic. After putting in a full day of classes, students spend their evenings rehearsing for “Oliver!” In between, they squeeze in time for homework. Instead of heading home for the holidays, these students will spend half of their winter break in Syracuse performing in “Oliver!”, which runs through Dec. 30. But, without a doubt, students say it’s all worth it.
“It is a hectic schedule,” says Gabriel Matthews, a sophomore musical theater major who plays the part of undertaker Noah Claypole and is also one of Fagin’s gang. “But we’re doing something that we live to do. It’s exciting to go to rehearsals and be part of an explosion of creativity. It’s just great fun.”