Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company Puts a Twist on Shakespeare

The Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company will open its 2013-2014 main-stage schedule with “The Birth of Merlin, or The Child Has Found His Father” by William Shakespeare and William Rowley. “The Birth of Merlin” will be performed at Pitt-Greensburg’s Ferguson Theater November 21 through November 23 at 7:30 p.m., and November 24 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 regular, $5 Students/Seniors/Pitt ID.

As usual, Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company Director Stephen A. Schrum, PhD, associate professor of Theatre Arts, will add a twist or two to his production of this normally traditional Shakespeare/Rowley production. John Teacher, instructor of Theatre Arts at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a former collaborator with Schrum, will handle the set design for the production. Dianna Bourke will serve as the costume designer for the production.

Schrum’s vision for this production is to pit Victorian Britons against Gothic Saxon Vampires, utilizing a Victorian Science Fiction aesthetic commonly referred to as steampunk. Jules Verne-esque settings and costumes will add to the theme.

“In the traditional version of this play of religious faith and magic, the audience is transported to the early days of the British Kingdom,” explains Schrum. “The Britons are at war with the Saxons, there is civil unrest, and Prince Uther is missing—off searching for the beautiful woman whose enchantment has captured his heart. Meanwhile, the expectant Joan and her clownish brother are searching for the mysterious father of her child. ‘The Birth of Merlin’ is a supernatural tale of conflict, deviltry—literally—and resolution, as the magical child Merlin, who is born fully grown, does find his father.”

Schrum also notes that there has been much scholarly debate about the authorship of this play (usually placed in the doubtful “apocryphal works of Shakespeare” category) but it appears to be a true collaboration between the two authors.

Theater-goers who wear a steampunk costume to the Friday, November 22, performance will get 40 percent off the ticket price. A Steampunk Costume Contest (with prizes!) will also be held prior to the show with judging by Dianna Bourke, costume designer, Amber McAlister, PhD, art history professor, and John Teacher, set designer.

A “dinner & theater” option is available for the Saturday, November 23, performance. Tickets are $25 and include dinner in Pitt-Greensburg’s Hempfield Room and preferred seating for the show. Contact Emily Stark (eas114Wpitt.edu or 724-366-9896) for reservations and more information.

The Sunday, November 24, performance at 2 p.m. will include a live stream of the matinee via the campus’ athletic department link: http://www.livestream.com/pittgreensburgsportsnetwork?t=331755. The live stream production will be handled by Pitt-Greensburg Media, the campus’ student-run video production group.

“This is our first venture into a streamed performance. We hope that the live stream will allow family members and friends who live at a distance or who are less mobile, as well as colleagues and collaborators in digital ventures from around the globe, to see the show,” said Schrum. “We’ve experimented with a blended reality performance, with performers in the virtual world of Second Life and Ferguson Theater a few years ago, so this is the next step in adding further digital capabilities to the Theatre Company’s performance resume.”

For information, contact Dr. Stephen Schrum, Director of Theatre at Pitt-Greensburg: by email at sas114@pitt.edu or by phone at 724-836-7483.

Cast List: Twenty-three Pitt-Greensburg students will perform in “The Birth of Merlin.”

Kierstin Brown (The Countess of Gloster) is a second-year Early Childhood Education major from Irwin, PA. She has been involved in musical performance throughout her academic career. As a high school senior, she performed as a featured dancer in “All Shook Up.”  A member of the Pitt-Greensburg Chorale, Brown made her Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company debut with “Eleanor—An American Love Story” last Spring.

Senna Renae Collings (Anselma the Hermit) studied at Lincoln Park Performing Arts. While there, she played the roles of Millie Owens in “Picnic” and Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker.” From Wexford, PA, Collings is a first year English Writing major.

Patrick Dittmar (Aurelius) is a sophomore Communications major from Royersford, PA. He is active with the Student Activities Board, the Pitt-Greensburg Digital Media Club, and is treasurer of the campus’ Gay-Straight Alliance.

Brian Donehue (Toclio) is a sophomore double-majoring in Management and Visual and Performing Arts (Theatre concentration) from Pittsburgh, PA. A member of the Pitt-Greensburg Chorale, Donehue made his Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company debut with “Eleanor—An America Love Story.”

Harry Edmonds (Edwin), from Fox Chapel, PA, is making his theatre debut with this show.

Jordan Fessler (Joan Go-to't) appeared as Eleanor Roosevelt last spring’s production of “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” Prior to coming to Pitt-Greensburg, she was the president of Show Choir and also performed all four years in high school Theatre, including the role of Natalie/Ed in “All Shook Up.” Fessler, who is from Irwin, PA, also is a Community Assistant this year.

Carissa Hardy (Antick Spirit/Achilles’ Spirit/Figure of Arthur) is a third-year Visual and Performing Arts (Theatre concentration) major from Perkasie, PA. In high school, she appeared in a production of “Hello, Dolly;” here at Pitt-Greensburg she worked on the stage crew for “Hippolytus” and “Arsenic and Old Lace,” played the Elderly Woman in “Dog Assassin,” and appeared in the Company for “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” She also acted in last year’s RedEye Project performance. Hardy is the House Rep for the Performing Arts Society, the stage manager for Chorale, head of music selection for UPGLee, and a member of Delta Psi Omega.

Vincent Holden (The Clown) is a senior Psychology major from North Huntingdon, PA. Off-campus he has appeared in “Curtains” and “Twelfth Night (Or What You Will),” and on our stage he played the shipwrecked man in “Thirst,” and Officer O’Hara in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Holden is also the President of Gay-Straight Alliance.

Maura Huggins (Lucina/Hector’s Spirit) is a first-year student double-majoring in Biology and Psychology. From Butler, PA, she is making her theatre debut with this show.

Meg Hughes (Edoll, Duchess of Chester) has appeared on our stage as the Security Guard/Executioner in “The Duchess of Malfi,” Little Sally in “Urinetown: The Musical!,” Penny in “You Can’t Take It With You,” Gem the Hitman in “Dog Assassin,” as Martha Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and as Sara Delano in “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” She also appeared in our workshop production of “A Tell Tale Poe” three years ago. Recently, we mounted a production of her one-act play, “A Waking,” that she wrote in the Playwriting class taught by Stephen Schrum, PhD. From Lancaster, PA, Hughes is a senior double majoring in English Writing and English Literature with a minor in Theatre. A member of Delta Psi Omega (DPO) and the Performing Arts Society (PAS), she is a Green Scholar working with Elisa Bashero-Bondar, PhD, on the Digital Mitford Project.

Steph Jenkins (A Waiting Woman/Cybergoth Fate) is a first-year Biology major from Monroeville, PA. Prior to this year, she appeared in “Aida,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” She is making her theatre debut with this show.

Jake Kaminski (Oswald) is a first-year Biology major from Leechburg, PA.

Cody Kraski (Prince Uther) is a senior majoring in Business Management and Visual and Performing Arts (Music concentration). In high school, he appeared in “Godspell,” “Barnum,” “Once Upon A Mattress,” and “Leader of the Pack.” Our regular audience members may recall him as Ted in “Dog Assassin.” From Pittsburgh, PA., Karski is also half the musical duo The Feel Good Revolution with Claire Secen.

Cletus McConville (The Devil) is a second-year student majoring in Visual and Performing Arts (Theatre concentration) from Grindstone, PA. McConville made his Pitt-Greensburg theatre debut last year as Mr. Witherspoon in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and followed that with various roles in “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” Prior to coming to Pitt-Greensburg, lists previous roles as Mr. Laurance in “Little Women,” Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” The Pirate King in “The Pirates of Penzance,” Henry in “Achedamee Awards,” the Ugly Duckling in “Honk,” and Hersemin in “Heidi the Musical” (which he also assistant directed). He is a member of the Pitt-Greensburg Chorale and Chamber Singers.

Sean O'Connell (Cador, Duke of Cornwall) is a senior Biology major from Hershey, PA. Previously he has appeared in “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music,” and “Aida,” and is finally making his Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company debut with this show. O’Connell also is president of the Yoga Club.

Brian Morrison (Donobert) is a dedicated father of 3 and, as of 2012, a veteran of the US Navy who hopes to start a veterans’ transition organization at Pitt-Greensburg. A sophomore Psychology major from Beaufort, SC, Morrison made his Pitt-Greensburg theatre debut with “Arsenic and Old Lace” as Mr. Gibbs, and appeared as the First Mate in “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” Before that, he played the Fireman in the musical “Working.”

John Paul Ritchey (Merlin) is a senior Visual and Performing Arts major (Theatre concentration). From Charleroi, PA, Ritchey appeared in the chorus for our production of “Urinetown,” and last fall threatened everyone as Jonathon Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” He also played various roles, including Teddy Roosevelt and Al Smith in “Eleanor—An American Love Story.”

Tessa Sarver (Octa) made her Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company debut last spring in “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” She also wrote a play for the Red-Eye Project. Last spring she directed and acted in a Murder Mystery Dinner presentation in Harrison City. In high school, she played an ensemble member in “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” and “The Music Man,” Olga Katrina in “You Can’t Take it With You,” and Judge Gaffney in “Harvey.” A junior English Writing major from Greensburg, PA, Sarver is also House Rep for Delta Psi Omega, the national theatre honors society.

Kaitlyn Marie Schmidt (Artesia) is a first-year Visual and Performing Arts major (still choosing a concentration) from Pittsburgh, PA. While she is making her Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company debut with this show, she has been performing for years, and will soon direct her first show, “Bingo: The Award Winning Musical!,” for her church. Also, in high school she received the Most Outstanding Vocalist award, and had been accepted to the Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts (AMDA) in New York City, but decided instead to attend Pitt-Greensburg instead for her degree.

Najeeb Sherzai (Ostorious) wins the award for the student who has traveled the farthest, coming to us from Afghanistan. A sophomore Economics and Political Science double-major, Sherzai is making his theatre debut with this show.

Jacob Steele (Vortiger) is a junior from Belle Vernon, PA. An experienced musician, Steele lists basic acting as previous theatre experience and is making his Pitt-Greensburg theatre debut with this show.

Bethany M. Thomas (Raconteur Troubador) has appeared on our stage as Thalia in “Hippolytus,” one of Set’s Followers in “Dog Assassin,” The Rev. Dr. Harper  in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and a Company member in “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” As a vocalist, she is a member of the Pitt-Greensburg Chorale and Chamber Singers and the Westmoreland Symphony Chamber Singers. Offstage, Thomas—a junior Visual and Performing Arts major (Music concentration) from Uniontown, PA—is a member of Phi Eta Sigma, vice speaker of the House of Representatives of Pitt-Greensburg’s Student Government Association, vice president of Delta Psi Omega, vice president of the Performing Arts Society, and is co-publicity manager for the Pitt-Greensburg Chorale. Thomas also received the 2012-2013 Member of the Year awards for Delta Psi Omega and Performing Arts Society.

Jess Uhler (Proxima) comes to us from Harrisburg, PA, where she has performed in musicals since the seventh grade and plays since the ninth grade. She is a senior Visual and Performing Arts major (Theatre concentration), and has graced our stage as Linda Christie in “Play It Again, Sam,” Alice Sycamore in “You Can’t Take It With You,” Koryphaios in “Hippolytus,” Amber in “Dog Assassin,” Abby Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and Alice Roosevelt in “Eleanor—An American Love Story.” Uhler also performed in the campus production of “The Vagina Monologues” from 2011 to 2013. She is Academic Village Senate secretary, head of Live Music Committee, secretary of the House, and a member of the Executive Board for the Student Government Association, as well as a member of Delta Psi Omega and the Performing Arts Society. In the spring semester, she will serve as firector/music director for “A Very Potter Musical,” working with Alicia DiPaolo on their main-stage capstone project.

Emily Ann Stark (Stage Manager) comes to us from Fayette City, PA. Emily is a junior double-majoring in Visual and Performing Arts Major (Theatre concentration) and Communications. She has appeared on our stage as the shipwrecked woman in “Thirst,” Tammy in “Dog Assassin,” the daughter of Oceanus in the virtual production of “Prometheus Bound” in Second Life, Koryphaios in the tour of “Hippolytus,” Elaine Harper in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” a member of the company in “Eleanor—An American Love Story,” and Tanner in “A Waking.” Stark also is president of the Performing Arts Society, vice president of the Visual Arts Society, treasurer of Delta Psi Omega, and won the 2011-2012 Performing Arts Society Member of the Year award. She is also working as a Green Scholar with Stephen Schrum , PhD, on “Transhuman Performance.”

Publication Date

Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 12:30pm