The Whitworth Theatre is wrapping up its final preparations to present “Hay Fever” Oct. 14-22 which, considering a late start, is coming together. “I think people will respond well to how clever and witty and hopefully, how beautiful it is,” said sophomore Rhiannon Batson, one of two assistant stage managers on the set.
The British comedy, written by Noel Coward, is set in the 1920s. It portrays the Bliss family, who, judging by their domestic disputes, seem anything but blissful. Led by Mrs. Judith Bliss, played by senior Isabel Nelson, the family can only be described as theatrical. The drama begins when each of the four family members invites a guest over for the weekend. This leads to a series of love triangles and awkward moments as the guests get caught up in the drama of the Bliss household.
“The situations the characters are put into are so humorous, it just makes the play,” said sophomore and Assistant Stage Manager Colten Larsen.
Originally, the fall production was going to be an adaption of the Wakefield Mystery Plays, but it required a huge cast, said Theatre Professor Diana Trotter, who is directing the play. Combined with the change in the design team along with a new costume and stage designer, new Assistant Professor of Theatre Aaron Dyszelski, it would have been a lot to handle. In mid-July the department chose to do “Hay Fever” instead.
Trotter said that sometimes with play production, it comes in handy to research other adaptations to see how the directors solved certain problems.
Challenges the cast have faced during the production include the British accent and the acting style itself.
“This play has a very particular 1920s style in terms of the way the actors move,” Trotter said. “Because of the kind of clothing people wore in those days, the way they moved was different than ours.”
Trotter said generally they try to avoid doing plays with accents because actors sometimes focus on the accent instead of on the acting. However, the department wanted to give students ample opportunity to try something new.
The props, from teacups to sofas, also presented a unique challenge. Faced with a low budget, the team had to purchase and borrow items from Gonzaga University, Mead High School, the University of Idaho, Civic Theatre, antique shops and thrift stores.
As for the actors, putting in a minimum of 15 hours of practice a week is a struggle. Nelson said playing the part of Judith Bliss is easily the biggest part she’s ever done.
“It helps other people if you keep your energy up, even while not talking, but it’s exhausting,” Nelson said. “I sleep really well when I get the chance.”
Still, the hard work pays off. “Hay Fever” is also the funnest show she’s ever done, Nelson said. With help from her housemates in practicing lines, she said it does not feel like it’s been too much.
With final rehearsals underway and the finishing touches being put on the costumes, the actress noted that these final days are the final push.
“It’s kinda like the labor process,” Nelson said. “And you feel like you’re on drugs.”
“Hay Fever” will be playing Oct. 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. in Cowles Memorial Auditorium. General admission will be $8; tickets for students and senior citizens (62 and up) will cost $6.
By Heather Kennison
Photo By Hope Barnes