By Jeffrey S. Miller, professor of theatre
Two performances of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, played to enthusiastic packed houses in the A. J.Gordon Chapel January 28–29. But what dazzled and delighted onstage was only part of intense experience for an unprecedented cast and crew of close to 75 Gordon students. And it’s what you didn’t see that moved me, as director, the most.
In the middle of finals week, early December, a crew of student seamstress volunteers gathered with costume designer Christine Alger, her student assistants Amy Laing and Lauren Mawe and production supervisor Dawn Sarrouf, to map out the plan to produce close to 100 costumes in just three weeks. Cutting short their holiday breaks, they gathered early January in the cramped costume shop of Barrington Center for the Arts, creating a virtual costume factory, laboring often 10 to 12 hours a day on the elegant summer dresses, flowing nightgowns, spiffy policemen’s uniforms and colorful pirate regalia that graced the actors.
Meanwhile student technical director Nathaniel Punches, assisted by student carpenter Luke Miller and other student volunteers, began building Amber Primm’s stunning set, complete with runway, rocky cove, crumbling columns and stately plinths. Theatre and Art double-major Carissa Gerber assisted with painting the large beach backdrop and ornate Queen Victoria frame. Student production manager Kaitlin Dalpini planned and supervised dinners for the entire cast and crew during the week preceding the food service opening, including a goodly number of special dietary needs.
And this doesn’t begin to touch on the outstanding contributions of student choreographer Kaitlyn Ebbott or the backstage crew led by student stage manager Sam Dennis, the chapel sound and light crew headed by Eric Cade and the make-up team led by student Cassie West. Or the rehearsal time invested by the largely student orchestra, led by intrepid music director Michael Monroe. Or the additional hours put in by the crew and cast moving set-pieces, props and costumes between Barrington and the Chapel before and after rehearsal, hanging the drops in place, installing lights and removing everything again after the last show so the chapel could be restored for its normal use.
It was a massive collaborative undertaking. I have never seen so many students work so selflessly for the sheer love of learning and delighting an audience on our campus. And I’d be hard-pressed to find a more vivid and inspiring picture of the body of Christ in action—one body, many parts, each using his or her gifts in service.
The production of this buoyant, sometimes silly, but ultimately soaring operetta about the importance of faithfulness and duty sought to entertain and uplift its audience. But it was all the supporting efforts, what you didn’t see, joyfully given behind the scenes, that served to build my hope—in the future of the arts at Gordon and, more importantly, in our Creator God, the source of all beauty, music, dance and theatre!
Gordon College is a multidenominational Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston’s North Shore, offering majors in 38 fields with graduate programs in education and music education. Gordon is nationally recognized for excellence in academics and in character building, and ranks as one of the nation’s top Christian colleges. www.gordon.edu