Sometimes you just need to laugh. With that thought in mind, an eight person team of students and faculty selected Neil Simon’s “Rumors” for this spring’s theater department offering. At the time, the committee had no idea of the importance the selection would eventually have.
Setting the Stage
Visual and Performing Arts Department Director Paige Gagliano says “Rumors” is hysterical. She remembers first watching the show on Broadway and laughing so hard her head hurt. To elicit those laughs everything about this farce has to be just right from the set doors opening and closing to the blocking of the 10 person cast. “Timing has to be impeccable,” says Gagliano. With three separate casts for a total of 30 performers, there is much to work out. Gagliano says assistant director and Episcopal senior Emily Lynch has done a tremendous job working out the little details. The cast has also given their all to the effort.
“We have been working extremely hard on this play and it means so much to all of us, so to be able to bring it to people and hear their feedback is one of the many reasons why I love acting!” India Lathan, junior
India Lathan may be relatively new to acting, but she has always had an interest in theater. “I never thought I wanted to pursue the performing arts, it was always something that I just loved to analyze, I never thought I would end up there until last year,” she says. India performed in her first play in Episcopal’s Black Box Theater last year. “I loved every part of it and that was when I knew I wanted to keep doing theatre!” India plays Claire in “Rumors” and says she hopes to one day minor or double major in theater.
“I gave it a chance, and it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences in high school.” Abhay Basireddy, senior
Senior Abhay Basireddy is also new to the performing arts. He says he never thought about participating until it was time to fulfill an arts credit. He enrolled in the play production class and enjoyed the experience so much that he’s now portraying Ken in “Rumors.” “It’s a truly unique experience in terms of being authentic, creating a grand production from nothing but yourselves, finding an overwhelmingly supportive and accepting community, and making lots of close friends and connections with others, having a ton of fun along the way,” he says. Basireddy says after his own theater experience he recommends that other students give the arts a try. “I never considered myself an ‘arts kid’ or ‘theatre kid,’ but after I joined, I don’t want to leave.”
A common theme among the arts is the sense of community that is created from spending hours together rehearsing scenes and reviewing lines. This sense of togetherness is so important that Gagliano builds time for cast bonding into each meeting. Both India and Abhay say that feeling of community is the best part of the experience. “The cast of ‘Rumors’ has been one of the most accepting, authentic, and inclusive communities I’ve found on campus,” says Abhay. “The best part of this experience has been gaining a family and meeting people I never thought would have been interested in theatre,” says India. “Everyone is so sweet and supportive; they all truly care about this community and will stop at nothing to show it.”
Honoring a Legacy
This year’s play and cast have an unexpected connection to the original group of Episcopal thespians who first performed “Rumors” in 1995. Weeks ago, as Gagliano began distributing scripts and relating the background of the play, she had no idea that the student initially responsible for producing the play at Episcopal had passed away from a tragic incident. Dr. Lindley Spaht Dodson died at the physician’s office where she worked on the same day that the scripts with her handwritten notes were given to the current generation of Episcopal actors and actresses. Now the current production of “Rumors” is a way to honor Lindley who was inspired to bring the play to Episcopal her senior year. “We leave a little of ourselves everywhere and she certainly left an imprint on me,” Gagliano says of Lindley, who she describes as “joyful, loving, empathetic, caring and fun.” The original “Rumors” production was co-directed by Gagliano and former Episcopal theater director Danny Tiberghein, who was also lost in tragedy. Gagliano says she referenced Tiberghein’s binder and notes when re-introducing the play this year.
“What you do here matters,” says Gagliano. “You’re not simply passing through. You leave a mark on this place.” This year’s cast will honor the contributions of Lindley during the April 17th performance. There are photos and memorabilia sprinkled throughout the set, and the original cast members have recorded video messages of what the play meant to them all those years ago.
Congratulations to our senior thespians! These students are ready to give it their all in the Episcopal presentation of “Rumors.” Evan Meek as Lenny Gantz, Martha Rhodes as Chris Gorman, Madi Bell as Cookie Cusack, Andrea Norwood as Cookie Cusack, Marshall Pentes as Dr. Ernie Cusack, Charlie Roth as Lenny Gantz, Allen Stewart as Glenn Cooper, Emily Lynch Assistant Director and Abhay Basireddy as Ken Gorman. Don’t miss your chance to support these students on stage