When two spinster sisters and a charismatic cad named Everard invade Miss Mary's School for Secretaries, they become the catalyst for political, sexual and emotional upheavals. Age of Arousal, by Canadian playwright Linda Griffiths, appears in the David Spinks Theatre Oct. 14-18, nightly at 8 p.m.
The play is set in 1885, a time of change and confusion, with corsets busting in
unbridled desire and Suffragettes threatening the status quo.
"The play deals with confusion, change and how what seems clear to the mind may not always be clear to the heart. It is all about people having a hard time figuring things out," says director Gail Hanrahan.
The plot revolves around Mary's lover Rhoda, who has dedicated her life to championing rights for women and "the Woman Question," and Monica, the younger sister of the spinsters, who is living through her physical desires. Both fall for the charismatic cad and in the end neither is fulfilled.
"Although set in Victorian England, these same issues touch us today and provide something for audiences to
contemplate," adds Hanrahan.
"This vibrant play takes audiences through the gamut of emotions, from some very funny bits to some extremely touching moments," she says, adding she was attracted to the play because of its emphasis on acting.
"I think this is the strongest cast I've had since coming to the University and all six actors — Jocelyn Haub, Geneviève Paré, Caylee Stewart, Leeanne McLim, Jazlyn Dow and Adam Beauchesne — are excited about working hard to reinforce their skills."
The cast faces some interesting challenges.
"The play is full of 'thought speak', where character's feelings are spoken out loud," says Hanrahan. "So in some places there's a spoken conversation going on with the added complexity of thoughts also being spoken by the same actors. Actors have to develop contrasts to clarify that difference for the audience."
Unlike many U of L mainstage productions, Age of Arousal has a small cast and an intimate setting in the David Spinks Theatre.
"To emphasize that it is a time of change, we've contrasted the rich soft fabrics of Leslie Robison-Greene's beautiful costumes with the clean lines of David Barrus's shiny black set, which emphasizes the new industrial age," says Hanrahan.
Although not strictly of the Victorian period, the costumes reflect that rich draped and layered feel of Victorian times and include delicate embroidery and fine detail work — down to hand painted embellishments.
"I love fabric and I have to say the costumes are gorgeous, I'd call them succulent," she says with a smile.
Taking a little artistic license, the set pieces reflect what is new now, while props used by the actors offer a more Victorian feel.
Another unique feature of the production is original music composed by Bente Hansen of the U of L Music Department.
"There is a lyrical quality to the play," says Hanrahan. "I had heard Bente performing and asked her to get involved."
Hansen has been at most of the rehearsals and has woven her music into the production.
"Bente watches the actors and reacts to the action and mood she sees. Her piano became another voice and I can't imagine the play without music," says Hanrahan.
Tickets for Age of Arousal are priced at $15 regular and $10 student/senior at the U of L Box Office, 403-329-2616.
Katherine Wasiak is the communications/PR officer for the Faculty of Fine Arts