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Hamilton Alumni Review
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Alumni Review – Spring-Summer 2014

The Curtain Closes on Minor

BY CHARLOTTE HOUGH ’14; PHOTOS BY NANCY L. FORD

On opening weekend of the Theatre Department’s spring show Dark Play or Stories for Boys, a feeling of anticipatory excitement hangs in the air inside Minor Theater. Audience members filter in to a soundtrack that is relaxed but with foreboding minor tones foreshadowing the darker themes of the play. Projected onto large panels on stage are images of enlarged gray pixels. Amidst the scene, theatregoers find their seats and chat about Dark Play’s significance as the last student production in Hamilton’s historic performance space.

Dark Play deals with questions of the Internet’s evolving role in today’s globalized world, especially the consequences of its potential misuse. Fourteen-year-old Nick, played by Charlie Wilson ’16, creates an alternate Internet persona, Rachel (played by Katherine Delesalle ’14), to lure a young and naïve Adam (Michael Gagnon ’16) into his home.

Nick is able to use his computer screen name and the anonymity of the Internet as a protective screen. In this sense, technology carries the plot of Dark Play, a fact that could be seen working in tension with the antiquity of the performance space. Wilson enjoyed the pairing of the two.

“It’s obviously a really old space, and this is clearly a very cutting-edge, modern play,” Wilson says. “It [has been] kind of fun to push the old building to its technological limits.”

Minor Theater was renovated to serve as an acting space in 1962 and named for benefactor and trustee Clark H. Minor, Class of 1902. But the building itself is much older. It first opened in 1872 as a library, later serving as an infirmary and dormitory for the overflow of young women who visited the Hill for houseparty weekends as guests of the all-male student population.

The building’s final days as a performance space and conversion to a residence hall beginning this summer will close some doors on old lore, pre-production rituals and remaining artifacts of past plays. Away will go the paint cans that have collected over the years and the actor-inscribed surfaces backstage. What we present here, then, is an homage to Minor, the story of the backstage workings of the last department production to go up there — Dark Play or Stories for Boys.

Dyllon Young ’15 (left), who played a pregnant woman (among other of Nick’s “cyber creations”), checks himself in the mirror of the men’s locker room. At right, women in the ladies’ locker room adjust their costumes before rehearsal. In the mirror at center, Katherine Delesalle ’14 waits for the show to begin. “I think [Rachel] functions sort of as a mirror or a lens through which the characters can see one another,” she says, explaining her character’s liminal and elastic state within and out of the computer screen. “There are moments when I’m behind the [computer] screen and moments when I break the screen or also look at Nick and sort of break the focus of the play.”

Kelsey Crane ’17 (left) and Katherine Delesalle ’14 prepare for the show. Delesalle, who played a young teen named Rachel, Nick’s invented Internet persona, readies for her role by putting on sparkly lip gloss, bouncing on her heels — “because Rachel is very bubbly and very ebullient” — and giggling.

While waiting for the actors to take the stage for the last production in Minor Theater, Director Craig Latrell, professor of theatre, tells a student, “This is the last one ... it’s kinda sad.” Latrell stumbled upon Dark Play while perusing a list of Obie Awards listed on the Village Voice’s website. Though he was unfamiliar with the work, he thought it sounded interesting “and very dark,” he adds. “It has things that we usually don’t see on Minor Theater’s stage.”

Kelsey Crane ’17 gets her “Ms. Spiegel” outfit adjusted by Costume Designer Amy Petta. The theatre teacher, “Ms. Spiegel, she is very physical,” Crane reflects. “She just has a much lower, deeper, more authoritative center than I do. So finding that every night and embodying that physically before going on was very much how I found that role.”

From left, Michael Gagnon ’16, Allison Schuette ’16, Director Craig Latrell and Andrew Gibeley ’16 chat in a dressing room before rehearsal. In his hand, Gagnon, who plays the average “dumb and gullible” Adam, holds the remnants of a bagel wrapping. Gagnon ate a bagel before each show to help get into character. “Adam’s a character that likes to chill. He really just sits there and goes along with whatever’s going on around him,” Gagnon explains. “I guess just having to eat the bagel, [while] everyone’s watching me, Nick’s doing his thing, and I sit there chowing away, it did get me into the mindset of him.”

Charlie Wilson ’16 gestures emphatically during a rehearsal for Dark Play. “I think this is the most excitable character I’ve ever played,” he says. “For this I made a conscious effort backstage just to be really loud, crack jokes, really amp myself up. I wanted to be on the verge of annoying the heck out of everyone else backstage, because the second I get on that stage I needed to walk on already being at a 10 as far as alertness and energy. Coffee was definitely a part of my pre-ritual.”

Paint cans and props collected over the years. Charlie Wilson ’16 describes how in the backstage area of Minor, actors could come in close contact with the set workspace. “You do get to see everything, so you have a close understanding, a good understanding, of the whole process of the different levels of the play.”

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