Summer Theatre, 2009

  Directed by Anna Antaramian

The year is 1885 and the action is set against the backdrop of the Serbo-Bulgarian war.  George Bernard Shaw’s satire on love and war centers on the Petkoff family in Bulgaria.  There is the proud and protective Catherine, her good-natured but sometimes daffy husband Major Petkoff, and their romantic, idealistic daughter Raina.  Raina is engaged to the cynical and philandering Major Sergius Saranoff.  Sergius has made advances toward the Petkoff’s coy and defiant maid Louka, who is loved by the hard working and noble servant Nicola. In the midst of this is the comical Captain Bluntschli, the Swiss soldier who prefers chocolates to pistols.  This wonderful play takes a humorous look at matters of the heart and of the state in Shaw’s inimitable fashion.
 
Ever since its first performance in 1894, and the controversy it aroused, it has had a prominent place in the repertory of the English-speaking stage.  In this play Shaw wrote a satire on war and the professional fighting man; the typical Shavian touches throughout are very good fun; but of course there are serious points to be made too and Shaw makes them in his inimitably brilliant manner. (Samuel French, Inc.)

 The action takes place at Major Petkoff’s house somewhere in Bulgaria, about 1885.
ACT ONE, Raina’s bedchamber.
ACT TWO, The garden.
Ten Minute Intermission
ACT THREE, The Library.
 
On Shaw's Arms and the Man
The ancient Roman poet Virgil wrote his epic poem, The Aeneid, as a tribute to the Roman Empire. He took a defeated character from the ancient Greek epic of war, Homer's Iliad, and made him the center of that empire building. That character, Aeneas, has represented to centuries of Western Civilization's readers the heroic ideal of military action: Aeneas is brave, loyal and determined; he looks death in the face and scoffs. He has no false notions about manliness. Like other epic heroes, Aeneas cries at the death of his closest friend. His tears do not unman him; they are proof of the depth of his loyalty and love. His deeds are the proof of his heroism.

Virgil's epic poem begins with the words Arma virumque cano, which, translated, mean "arms and the man I sing."  In 1894, when George Bernard Shaw's play was first produced, most men and women attending the play had been schooled as children in classical mythology and in Greek and Latin literature or at least in its rudiments. The Latin language was part of the curriculum. Even the worst students would have encountered Virgil's opening words, perhaps in crib sheets in translation. It is fair to say that "arms and the man" was a phrase as familiar to most people then as, say, "have fun storming the castle" is to most Americans today.

Thus, when the opening night crowd entered the theatre, only those already in the know could have anticipated Shaw's full frontal assault on a heroic ideal that was older than two millennia. But on opening night there were many in the know. Michael Holroyd, Shaw's most thorough and successful biographer, points out that Shaw fattened the opening night crowd with many, many friends—literary types to be sure. They gave him such a cheer after the final curtain that Shaw took the stage to give a speech. One viewer, however, was highly annoyed at the play, so he loudly booed the playwright. Shaw gave a small speech, directed to the unhappy viewer. "My dear fellow, I quite agree with you," Shaw is supposed to have said, "but what are we against so many?"
   
A less school-related context for the play resides in its arrival less than two years after a British celebration of the heroic ideal. Kipling, Britain's most pro-colonial poet, scolded England for not taking care of its war veterans by updating the very popular "Charge of the Light Brigade," which Tennyson had written some forty years earlier.  Kipling's poem, "The Last of the Light Brigade," reminds England that every child in school is made to memorize "The Charge of the Light Brigade” even while England now ignores the men who survived that memorialized battle. Those men are wracked by poverty and neglect. The original Light Brigade poem was written in 1854 immediately after England's poet laureate, Alfred Tennyson, read an account in the newspapers. Tennyson made something noble and tragic, heroic and patriotic, out of what seems to be a rather needless and foolish attack.

        Cannon to right of them                  Back from the mouth of Hell,
        Cannon to left of them,                  All that was left of them,
        Cannon behind them                      Left of six hundred
        Volley'd and thunder'd;                 When can their glory fade?
        Storm'd at with shot and shell        O the wild charge they made!
        While horse and hero fell,              All the world wondered.
        They that had fought so well          Honor the charge they made,
        Came thro' the jaws of Death,       Honor the Light Brigade,
        Back from the mouth of Hell,        Noble six hundred.
        All that was left of them,             
        Left of six hundred.

Shaw parodies these noble sentiments with a presentation of realities that are at odds with such heroism. Shaw gives us a wizened military veteran who is more interested in grub than in bullets. This veteran is so war-scarred that he cries merely from being scolded. More 'noble' military men in the play are incompetent or merely silly enough to be fooled by a girl. One of them, now deemed a great hero, led a misguided attack that surely should have rendered him and the soldiers under his command to the same fate as that of the Light Brigade, but for the enemy's own incompetence. Bumblers all!

It was on the second night of performance that the controversy began. How could any self-respecting citizen present such an untrue and unflattering portrait of military men? In response, Shaw showed that every military event and character in the play was based on something or someone real.

After Shaw and after the next generation's great anti-war poets, poems like Tennyson's and Kipling's begin to seem more like propaganda pieces than attempts to understand the horrors, the ravages, the downright stupidity of most wars.

Patrick McGuire
English Department
University of Wisconsin-Parkside


Cast (in order of appearance)_______________
Raina………………………………….Laura Welsh Berg
Catherine Petkoff………………………..Marie Goodkin
Louka…………………………………Colleen McCready
Captain Bluntschli…………………………….Nick Shea
Russian Officer……………………………..David Lynch
      Nicola……………………………………..Manny Schenk 
Major Paul Petkoff……………………...Harold LeBoyer
Major Sergius Saranoff………………….Nathan Pease 

Production Staff__________________________
Director...……………………...….………….Anna Antaramian
Stage Manager..……………...………..….......Laura Gryfinski
Scenic Designer…...………………………...Brandon Wardell
Light Designer…………………….....…….….John Rodriguez
Costume Designer....……………………..…...Jana Anderson
Technical Director…………………………………Alex Useted
Theatre Manager…………………………..Colleen McCready
Box Office Manager……………..……………….Donna Duraj
House Manager………………………………….Mike Nemeth
Theatre Bookkeeper………….……Becca Raven Uminowicz
Light Board Operator………………..….….……Mike Nemeth
Sound Board Operator……………………………..Abby Lenz
Set Construction…….…………..…..Summer Theatre Class

LAURA WELSH BERG (Raina) is delighted to be making her Stage Center debut! She is a recent resident of Chicago after having spent the last four years as a company member at Great Lakes Theatre Festival in Cleveland, Ohio and her sister company The Idaho Shakespeare Festival where she performed in The Tempest, Major Barbara, Hay Fever, The Crucible, Love’s Labours Lost, All’s Well that End’s Well, She Stoops to Conquer, Into the Woods, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Romeo and Juliet, Measure for Measure, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Macbeth. Other regional favorites include A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Oklahoma and Godspell.
L’M.L.S.

MARIE GOODKIN (Catherine Petkoff) is delighted to be appearing at The Stage Center Theatre for the first time. A long-time Chicago area actress and singer, recent seasons have found her onstage at Village Players, Lincoln Square Theatre, Circle Theatre, Darknight Theatrical Productions, Open Door Rep, Chicago Dramatists, and Theatre Building Chicago; at several local colleges; and in a number of independent and student films. Favorite stage roles include Clairee in Steel Magnolias; Ruth Steiner in Collected Stories; Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret; and Edna in The Oldest Profession. Many thanks to Anna and this talented cast and crew. As always, she sends her love to her family and friends, especially Ira, who has been her Major for 40 years.


Colleen McCready (Louka) is ecstatic to be appearing at The Stage Center Theatre again. A soon to be graduate of the C.M.T. Department here at N.E.I.U., Colleen was most recently seen as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other credits include Mrs. Cyrus Packard in He Said and She Said, Lyse in The Illusion, Chrysothemis in Electra and Kendall Adams in Stage Door. Colleen would like to thank the talented cast and crew for all their hard work. As always, she thanks Anna for her continuous support and guidance, and for this opportunity to shine once again. Most of all, Colleen thanks Mark and Sebastian for their encouragement and love.

Nick Shea (Captain Bluntschli) was last seen at The Stage Center Theatre as Calisto/Clindor/Theogenes in its recent production of The Illusion. Some of his past roles include Nick in The Complete History of America (Abridged,) Rasor in The Provok’d Wife, Marco in A View from the Bridge, Joseph II in Amadeus, and Creon in Antigone. Nick is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and wishes to thank his parents for their love and support. He would also like to thank his four wonderful children—Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.

David Lynch (Russian Officer) recently graduated from N.E.I.U. with a degree in   Communication, Media and Theatre and minors in both Justice Studies and Mass Media Communication. He is now pursuing his Masters in Communication. This is David’s first appearance at The Stage Center Theatre, though he has been seen playing around in a variety of Theatre classes at N.E.I.U. He would like to thank Anna for this wonderful opportunity. He would also like to thank his family and the entire C.M.T. Department for their support.

Manny Schenk (Nicola) has been involved in theater for a number of years and has appeared in over 45 productions with various companies. Some of his favorite roles include Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank, Tito Morelli in Lend Me a Tenor, Abe Dreyfuss in Squabbles, Basil in The Diviners, Juror Number Eight in Twelve Angry Jurors, Adolph Freitag in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. He appeared in the Big Noise Theatre production of The Beard of Avon as Henry Condel/Sir Francis Bacon, in Glenview Theatre Guild productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Singing in the Rain, the James Downing Theatre Production of The Laramie Project, and the Oakton Community College production of The Crucible. Manny is also involved in Those Were the Days Radio Players performing old-time radio shows in the Chicago area.

Harold LeBoyer (Major Paul Petkoff) is pleased to be back at NEIU having just appeared as Pridamont in The Illusion and back in 1999 as Argante in Scapino. Recent roles include Mr. McAfee in Bye Bye Birdie for Deerfield Family Theatre, Hannibal in Any Number Can Die for Theatre D, Pickering in My Fair Lady for Stage Right Productions, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast for Buffalo Grove, Spettigue in Charley’s Aunt for Wheaton Drama, Col MacKenzie in 10 Little Indians and Sidney in Inspecting Carol, both for Attic Playhouse as well as Polonius in Hamlet and the Duke in Two Gentlemen of Verona both for Harper College. Favorite roles include Sir Evelyn in Anything Goes, Arnold in The Boys Next Door, Martin in Social Security, Noah in The Rainmaker, Howard in Picnic and Roat in Wait Until Dark.

Nathan Pease (Major Sergius Saranoff) is excited to return to The Stage Center Theatre where he last appeared as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His regional classical credits include the title role in Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing, Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, The Imaginary Invalid and both Dromio twins in The Comedy of Errors. Modern credits include Blue/Orange, The House of Yes, Bent and Passing the Love of Women. Nathan spent the last two seasons as Resident Artist for the nationally-acclaimed Flint Youth Theatre performing in Frankenstein (title role,) The Hobbit (title role,) A Christmas Carol, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Holiday Memories among many other.


Anna Antaramian (Director) has been a member of NEIU’s theatre family for the past nineteen years. She is the Managing and Artistic Director of the Stage Center Theatre, Thymely Theatre, and is a past president of the Illinois Theatre Association. She holds an M.F.A. from New York University and has worked in various theatrical venues across the country, the most recent being the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Special thanks to H-S-A-N-T and, as always, Mr. McGuire.

Laura Gryfinski (Stage Manager) is a “work in progress” in that she is in pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree in both Elementary Education (with a minor in History) and CMT--both of which are her true passions in life.  She has performed onstage and worked behind the scenes in a number of  productions here at NEIU from set-building to Assistant Theatre Manager to Sound Board Operator and now as Stage Manager for Arms and the Man.  She thanks Anna for this new and challenging opportunity and is proud to be working with such an amazing cast!   She truly hopes you will enjoy the “fruits of their collective efforts.” Now……”on with the show!”

Brandon Wardell (Scenic Designer) is a freelance Lighting/Scenic designer and technical director in Chicago. He received his MFA from Northwestern University in 2007.  Recent Lighting credits include: On An Average Day (Backstage Theatre Co.), The Arab-Israeli Cookbook (Theatre Mir), and The Robber Bridegroom (Griffin Theatre Co.).  Recent scenic designs include: Maria’s Field (TUTA), In Arabia We’d All Be Kings (Steep Theatre), and Dracula (The Building Stage). Teaching credits include Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, and Illinois Wesleyan University.  www.wlightingdesign.com/bwardell

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer) joined the theatre faculty at Northeastern four years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center productions.  This past season he designed the lights for the four main stage productions: Charley’s Aunt, Electra, The Illusion, and Lettice and Lovage, and for the two Thymely Theatre productions last summer: Stage Door and Taking Steps, as well as The Stage Center’s recent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Jana Anderson (Costume Designer) Jana has designed numerous productions at Northeastern Illinois University over the last five years. A native of Czechoslovakia, she can not be more excited to work on this production, where she will try to recreate folklore costumes from the Balkan region. A Graduate of Textile Design from Fine Arts University in Bratislava, Jana loves to create elaborate costumes from past centuries. During the school year, she works with students at Roosevelt University in the costume shop and designs shows for various theaters in the Chicago area.

Alex Useted (Technical Director) is happy to be joining The Stage Center this summer. Alex serves as the Technical and Facilities Director at American Theatre Company. ATC productions include The Peoples Temple, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and the upcoming Yeast Nation (the triumph of life.) He also works with Crosstown Scenic, where he has contributed to projects for theatres throughout the Chicago area, including Timeline Theater, TUTA, Next Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, and the House Theater of Chicago

This production of Arms and the Man is dedicated to Anne Thurman, Sol Frieder, Alice Antreassian, and, in memoriam, Jack Antreassian.

Special Thanks to
The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff, Katrina Bell-Jordan, Colleen McCready, Laura Gryfinski, Becca Raven Uminowicz, Justin Berry,  the Department of Acounts Payable, Budget, and Purchasing and North Park University.

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