By: Teresa Sarkela –
Closing night of Blithe Spirit: props are set, ghostly make-up is flying, and sentimental cards are being passed around by cast and crew. As the curtain closes on another RMC production, three seniors and head RMC Drama professor, Gerry Roe, will also be bowing with the department in a grand finale.
After three and a half months of preparation, cast and crew had only six days to load all materials into Billings Studio Theater to create the world in which the characters could come alive. The technical design team, led by Professor Sarah Brewer, was primarily composed of students collaborating on scenery, lighting, costumes, and props. The 1940s Art Deco style of the play was emphasized in the set, designed by senior Teresa Sarkela.
Blithe Spirit follows novelist and champagne character Charles, played by senior Brodrick Cornett, and his new wife Ruth, freshman Emily Schaff, as he researches for his next story. The couple hosts a séance, conducted by wacky psychic Madame Arcati`, played by freshman Bridget Broughe. However, the supernatural circumstances sour when the Madame summons the spirit of Charles’ late wife, crass and fiery Elvira, played by senior Kassidy Miller.
“One of the biggest challenges with Elvira was finding the humanity in her,” said Miller, “and really infusing her character with that humanity so she isn’t just the ‘unfeeling character’.” Roe also admits the production was not complete without a few challenges. With a wide range of acting experience in the Roe worked with all members to “strike a cohesive balance between” the two senior actors, junior Lynn Laubach as Mrs. Bradman, and four eager freshman, including Jack Jennings as Dr. Bradman. As Roe described, developing the British farce meant integrating “all of the performances leading to the creation of a unified play.”
Nearly 60 audience members attended the final performance. Many of them friends and family, and even former students of Roe. According to Miller, “seeing everyone band together for the last show for Gerry” helped add to the success of the production. After curtain call, Miller and Cornett stepped forth with the rest of the cast to present Roe with a bouquet of flowers. As individuals and as part of 28 years of “Gerry’s kids,” they expressed the gratitude of many.
As Cornett put it, it is Gerry’s experience and passion that has shaped not only himself, but many of those who have learned and worked with the director. True to Gerry’s colors, he accepted the appreciation with profound sincerity and just the right amount of quirk. The enduring thanks from the senior cast members was followed by the entire audience rising to their feet, giving Roe a standing ovation.
“Here we end with yet another spiritual piece, the aforementioned Blithe Spirit,” said Roe, “which strived to examine, and perhaps explain, that which occurs after we cross over. In some strange way, Blithe Spirit completes the circle with which I opened 28+ years ago – a most unintended and joyful turn of events. No matter where I may go, I will always have in my heart a love and respect for the students, the professors, and the educational fulfillment that Rocky has afforded so many