Thursday, Nov. 12 saw the official opening of the St. Mary’s theater department’s fall comedy play Arms and the Man, written by George Bernard Shaw, as well as the grand re-opening of Montgomery Hall’s Bruce Davis Theater.
The night began at 7:00 p.m. with an informal gathering in the front hallway of Montgomery Hall, where professors, members of the community, and a couple of students took time between eating cupcakes and drinking apple cider to talk about the Theater, Film, and Media Studies (TFMS) department.
By 7:45 p.m., everyone had gathered by the entrance to the newly renovated Bruce Davis Theater, where the symbolic ribbon- cutting ceremony was about to take place. “We have a wonderful new theater,” said Professor Merideth Taylor, the TFMS department chair, as she gave her introductory speech.
Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance, then took his turn at the podium to speak about the remodeled theater. “This is a state-funded project,” Botzman said, “and we’re thrilled to have this project done.”
After the ribbon was cut and the doors were officially opened, the audience began pouring into the theater in order to take their first look at all of the improvements and renovations. Many said that the Bruce Davis Theater had a whole new atmosphere.
With the balcony gone, the department had more room to place a larger number of audience chairs. The seats that are placed all of the way on both sides do not have the best view of the house, but overall, the new setup is more sensible.
“I think the re-done theater is fabulous!” said sophomore Briana Manente, who also appeared in the play as the Bulgarian mother, Catherine Petkoff. “I only got a chance to work in the old theater for one year seeing as I am a sophomore, but the improvements are immense.”
The new seating is not the only change to the Bruce Davis Theater. A new lighting booth has been added, as well as an intercom system, up-to-date equipment, soundproof doors, and extra storage space.
The grand re-opening was characterized by the smell of hay that permeated throughout the theater from the spray-painted blocks of green hay that were used as set props to look like hedges from a garden.
The play Arms and the Man, which was directed by Professor Michael Ellis-Tolaydo, lasted roughly two hours with a 10-minute intermission. Although not all of the seats were filled for the opening night, it still received a strong turnout from the campus community.
The story told was about a young Bulgarian woman, Raina Petkoff, played by Melissa Mercer, who hides the Swiss soldier Captain Bluntschli, played by Eric Horwitz, in her bedroom. “In his play,” wrote Ellis-Tolaydo in the “Director’s Note” section of the production’s program, “Shaw ridicules the romantic ideals of war and the idealized notions of marriage in the nineteenth century.”
“The theater here at SMCM is diverse enough that doing something traditional is by no means shocking,” said Manente of the play. “Something traditional does not mean that it is without intrigue and excitement, it just means Raina and Sergius aren’t doing cocaine off a guitar case.”
Some noticed at some points throughout the production that a few of the cast and crew may have had the first night jitters. There were a couple of lines that appeared to be quickly improvised.”
But even with the few mistakes, the cast and crew gave a very nice opening night performance. From exchange student Katerina Floradis’ perfect accent for the fiery Louka to Ian Prince’s portrayal of the absurd and slightly vain Major Sergius Saranoff, the play left the audience laughing.
“I thought it was a great success,” said audience member Megan Kile. “It was very smart, very funny.”
The play will have three more showings, which will be at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19 and Friday, Nov. 20 and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22.
“Overall,” said Manente, “I would say that every play, no matter what it is or what it is about, has the ability to be exciting and a great learning experience for those in the show and the audience who enjoys it.”