Charley’s Aunt

by Brandon Thomas
directed by Dan Wirth
Fall, 2008



“This world-famous farce has moved millions to tears of laughter.  Jack Chesney loves Kitty Verdun and Charles loves Miss Spettigue.  They invited the ladies to meet Charley’s wealthy aunt from Brazil.  But alas, the millionaire aunt sends word that she will have to defer her visit for a few days.  What is to be done?  The dear young things must not be compromised--no, never!--but neither will the youths give up the opportunity of declaring their love. The problem is solved by forcing another Oxford undergraduate into a ..skirt, an old-fashioned cap and wig.  As Charley’s Aunt, this old frump is introduced to the sweethearts, to Jack’s father and to Stephen Spettigue, Miss Spettigue’s guardian.  Then the real aunt turns up.  In the comic confusion which results, young Lord Babberley, posing as the aunt, tricks Stephen Spettigue into agreeing to the marriage of his ward to Charley, the real aunt marries Jack’s father, Jack gets Miss Verdun, and “Charley’s Aunt” regains the fortune he lost at gambling and the girl he loves.”  (Samuel French, Inc.)





Brandon Thomas

Brandon Thomas (born Walter Brandon Thomas) was a British playwright and actor. He was born in Hull in either 1848, 1849, 1850, or 1856 (depending on where you look) and died in London in 1914. He worked as a shipping clerk in Liverpool and Hull before going on the stage in John Hare's company in 1879. In 1888 he had his first big London success in Sweet Lavender by Arthur Wing Pinero. After touring in America he had another success in London when he starred in the 1895 revival of The Rivals.

He acted in comedy parts in England and the USA, but was more successful as a playwright. His greatest triumph was with his farce, Charley's Aunt, produced in 1892. Among his other plays were Comrades, produced in 1882; The Colour-Sergeant produced in 1885; The Swordsman's Daughter produced in 1895; Women Are So Serious produced in 1901; and A Judge's Memory produced in 1906. He also wrote a number of popular songs.

See what the Independent had to say about Charlie's Aunt

Message from the Dramaturge                                                                                    

Love's Eternal Laughter 

      I first saw Charley's Aunt nearly forty years ago, in a high school production in a small New Jersey town. In those days, such a play in such a venue was not uncommon. One of my older brothers had performed in it at a nearby high school a dozen years earlier; an older cousin of ours was familiar with it from his high school's production in another state. For more than a half century, Charley's Aunt was the quintessential play for high school drama groups. The reasons for such popularity are not hard to grasp.

      First of all, the play is funny without being mean-spirited or sarcastic. It's a farce, and it contains traditional elements of farce, chiefest of which is the misidentification of a major character on stage. The audience knows the secret, and from that insight much of the humor is derived. This farce also has the shy male lover and the more-adept-at-love female. There are foolish lovers as well, and there is that staple of British farce, the unflappable butler. There is nothing serious about the play—all is for laughs, gentle laughs—which is why high school drama coaches chose it for their programs. How could any parent or superintendent be offended or scandalized?

      First performed in 1892, Charley's Aunt broke all records on the London stage with a run of more than 1400 performances. Similarly, on Broadway, it broke the longest-run record as well. Clearly, the play delights audiences; it always succeeds where it is performed.

      But a lot has happened since the play's premier; a lot has happened since my high school friends performed the piece. Even if one cannot harbor any respect for the theories of Sigmund Freud, one must still admit that such theories have unalterably changed our view of human personality. Freud's shattering explanation of the unconscious appeared a mere 8 years after Charley's Aunt began making audiences roar. It took the English-speaking world a few decades to acknowledge and domesticate Freud's views, but they are now entrenched in, for better or worse, our pop culture.

   Thus, while high school drama coaches could blithely produce Charley's Aunt, in the first six or seven decades of the Twentieth Century, it is impossible today to think of some of the play's humorous situations without acknowledging the psychological implications of such behavior for the characters. High schools today are right to leave Charley's Aunt for more sophisticated audiences.

    In a way, what I've just written takes the play far more seriously than its author, Brandon Thomas, ever intended.  But that's okay because the play itself is far lighter than any reality could ever be. That's the point. Add to that, the play is time bound in such a way that its initial situation may seem quite foreign to younger audiences today. The so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s and the Women's Movement of the last forty years have made generally obsolete the requirement of a chaperone when two college-aged girls visit two college-aged boys in their dorm-room. But that need for a chaperone is the given of the play, without which nothing else happens. University students in the 1890s, apparently, didn't hook up so easily as today, and when they did, apparently, it was for life.

      Nevertheless, audiences today will find enough to delight about. Once one gives into the mores of the play, laughter ensues quite unavoidably. Having enjoyed the play as a youngster, I now enjoy the play for some of its eternal evocations. For example, I look fondly at the young men's inability to write or speak of their love and attraction to their desired soul mates. (Been there.) I like too that the young people of the play have their own language and vocabulary. A striking example is the use of 'ploughed' for 'very ill.' As a father with kids in college, I recognize parental concerns about tuition and living expenses and the future of their young charges. (Am there.) But mostly, at watching the absurd lengths to which love will drive itself, I find myself absurdly present on stage in ways that I as a teenager would never have imagined. 

  Patrick McGuire
   Senior Lecturer, English
   University of Wisconsin-Parkside


Directors Note:
Charley's Aunt - the grandma of all sitcoms


When I started to look for Charley’s Aunt I couldn’t find it. It is apparently not included in any drama anthology (and I checked a pile of them). It also isn’t in the NEIU library or our departmental library. Yet it is one of the most produced plays in theatre history. Now how can this be? I have a theory as to why (I’m a college professor I’m supposed to have theories). It isn’t “literary” enough. It is a farce and farce defies conventional literary analysis. Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Toss in a man in drag, and in the end everyone goes away happy. Everything is on the surface and it is only alive on the stage. Its only purpose is to make an audience laugh.
 
First produced in 1892, Charley’s Aunt broke all records for a theatrical run, with an original London run of 1,466 performances. It opened on Broadway on  October 2, 1893, where it ran for another long run of four years. So our production opens exactly 115 years to the day from the original U.S. premiere! The play also toured internationally (with long runs in Paris and elsewhere) and was revived extensively. It has been performed in Rep all over the world with many different translations. At one time it was running in 48 theatres in 22 languages at the same time (including Chinese, Esperanto, Gaelic, Russian, Zulu and Afrikaans). It has also been made into a film with Jack Benny and into a musical called Where’s Charley?
 
And Charley has had children! Comedian Flip Wilson dressed in drag as “Geraldine” as did Milton Berle for his many drag incarnations including pretending to be Carmen Miranda. Mrs. Doubtfire, Tootsie, and Some Like It Hot all use a similar formula and every few years a cross dressing farce shows up on Broadway. The most recent example is Is He Dead? a revision of the Mark Twain play. Tom Hanks established himself on television in the 80’s while dressed in drag in Bosom Buddies. Of course, most television comedies are farces to begin with.
 
When my son was younger nothing made him laugh more than watching adults act like silly children. That’s how the characters in farce behave. They are stripped of their pride and dignity and nothing is sacred. They are driven by their desires for love or money and will stop at nothing. We laugh at them because we see ourselves. As Shakespeare’s Puck says, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
 
Oh and yes, I did finally find a copy of the play.
 
Dan Wirth

 


Cast (in order of appearance)_______________

Jack Chesney............Kyle Young
Brassett............Mike Jando
Charley Wykeham........David Mitchell
Lord FanCourt Babberley......  .. .Andrew Berlien
Kitty Verdun............Erin O’Shea
Amy Spettigue............Whitney Behr
Cornel Sir Francis Chesney.......Mark Heard
Stephen Spettigue........Tom Comacho
Donna Lucia D’ Alvadorez.....Cheryl Lyman
Ela Delahay...........Gail Wittenstein

Production Staff__________________________

Producer                Anna Antaramian
Director                Dan Wirth
Stage Manager                Benjamin Arrington
Assistant Director            Diana Kwiecien
Assistant Stage Manager            Mike Jando
Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director    Jessica Kuehnau
Light Designer/Co-Tech Director        John Rodriguez
Costume Designer            Jana Anderson
Sound Designer                James Mallory
Dialect Coach                Melanie Bujan
Master Electrician            Eric Senne
Public Relations Director        Sara Moss
Poster/Brochure Designer        Cheryl Lyman
Theatre Manager                Sara Moss
Box Office Manager            Marjie Kranz
Theatre Bookkeeper            Becca Raven Uminowicz
Running Crew                Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia
Light Board Operator            Noel Valenzuela
Sound Board Operator            Deliana Ranguelova
Set Construction            Theatre Practicum Class
 

Producer

Anna Antaramian

Director

Dan Wirth

Stage Manager

Benjamin Arrington

Assistant Director

Diana Kwiecien

Assistant Stage Manager

Mike Jando

Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director

Jessica Kuehnau

Light Designer/Co-Tech Director

John Rodriguez

Costume Designer

Jana Anderson

Sound Designer

James Mallory

Dialect Coach

Melanie Bujan

Master Electrician

Eric Senne

Public Relations Director

Sara Moss

Poster/Brochure Designer

Cheryl Lyman

Theatre Manager

Sara Moss

Box Office Manager

Marjie Kranz

Theatre Bookkeeper

Becca Raven Uminowicz

Running Crew

Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia

Light Board Operator

Noel Valenzuela

Sound Board Operator

Deliana Ranguelova

Set Construction

Theatre Practicum Class

Producer

Anna Antaramian

Director

Dan Wirth

Stage Manager

Benjamin Arrington

Assistant Director

Diana Kwiecien

Assistant Stage Manager

Mike Jando

Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director

Jessica Kuehnau

Light Designer/Co-Tech Director

John Rodriguez

Costume Designer

Jana Anderson

Sound Designer

James Mallory

Dialect Coach

Melanie Bujan

Master Electrician

Eric Senne

Public Relations Director

Sara Moss

Poster/Brochure Designer

Cheryl Lyman

Theatre Manager

Sara Moss

Box Office Manager

Marjie Kranz

Theatre Bookkeeper

Becca Raven Uminowicz

Running Crew

Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia

Light Board Operator

Noel Valenzuela

Sound Board Operator

Deliana Ranguelova

Set Construction

Theatre Practicum Class

Producer

Anna Antaramian

Director

Dan Wirth

Stage Manager

Benjamin Arrington

Assistant Director

Diana Kwiecien

Assistant Stage Manager

Mike Jando

Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director

Jessica Kuehnau

Light Designer/Co-Tech Director

John Rodriguez

Costume Designer

Jana Anderson

Sound Designer

James Mallory

Dialect Coach

Melanie Bujan

Master Electrician

Eric Senne

Public Relations Director

Sara Moss

Poster/Brochure Designer

Cheryl Lyman

Theatre Manager

Sara Moss

Box Office Manager

Marjie Kranz

Theatre Bookkeeper

Becca Raven Uminowicz

Running Crew

Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia

Light Board Operator

Noel Valenzuela

Sound Board Operator

Deliana Ranguelova

Set Construction

Theatre Practicum Class

Producer

Anna Antaramian

Director

Dan Wirth

Stage Manager

Benjamin Arrington

Assistant Director

Diana Kwiecien

Assistant Stage Manager

Mike Jando

Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director

Jessica Kuehnau

Light Designer/Co-Tech Director

John Rodriguez

Costume Designer

Jana Anderson

Sound Designer

James Mallory

Dialect Coach

Melanie Bujan

Master Electrician

Eric Senne

Public Relations Director

Sara Moss

Poster/Brochure Designer

Cheryl Lyman

Theatre Manager

Sara Moss

Box Office Manager

Marjie Kranz

Theatre Bookkeeper

Becca Raven Uminowicz

Running Crew

Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia

Light Board Operator

Noel Valenzuela

Sound Board Operator

Deliana Ranguelova

Set Construction

Theatre Practicum Class

Producer

Anna Antaramian

Director

Dan Wirth

Stage Manager

Benjamin Arrington

Assistant Director

Diana Kwiecien

Assistant Stage Manager

Mike Jando

Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director

Jessica Kuehnau

Light Designer/Co-Tech Director

John Rodriguez

Costume Designer

Jana Anderson

Sound Designer

James Mallory

Dialect Coach

Melanie Bujan

Master Electrician

Eric Senne

Public Relations Director

Sara Moss

Poster/Brochure Designer

Cheryl Lyman

Theatre Manager

Sara Moss

Box Office Manager

Marjie Kranz

Theatre Bookkeeper

Becca Raven Uminowicz

Running Crew

Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia

Light Board Operator

Noel Valenzuela

Sound Board Operator

Deliana Ranguelova

Set Construction

Theatre Practicum Class

Producer

Anna Antaramian

Director

Dan Wirth

Stage Manager

Benjamin Arrington

Assistant Director

Diana Kwiecien

Assistant Stage Manager

Mike Jando

Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director

Jessica Kuehnau

Light Designer/Co-Tech Director

John Rodriguez

Costume Designer

Jana Anderson

Sound Designer

James Mallory

Dialect Coach

Melanie Bujan

Master Electrician

Eric Senne

Public Relations Director

Sara Moss

Poster/Brochure Designer

Cheryl Lyman

Theatre Manager

Sara Moss

Box Office Manager

Marjie Kranz

Theatre Bookkeeper

Becca Raven Uminowicz

Running Crew

Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia

Light Board Operator

Noel Valenzuela

Sound Board Operator

Deliana Ranguelova

Set Construction

Theatre Practicum Class

Producer

Anna Antaramian

Director

Dan Wirth

Stage Manager

Benjamin Arrington

Assistant Director

Diana Kwiecien

Assistant Stage Manager

Mike Jando

Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director

Jessica Kuehnau

Light Designer/Co-Tech Director

John Rodriguez

Costume Designer

Jana Anderson

Sound Designer

James Mallory

Dialect Coach

Melanie Bujan

Master Electrician

Eric Senne

Public Relations Director

Sara Moss

Poster/Brochure Designer

Cheryl Lyman

Theatre Manager

Sara Moss

Box Office Manager

Marjie Kranz

Theatre Bookkeeper

Becca Raven Uminowicz

Running Crew

Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia

Light Board Operator

Noel Valenzuela

Sound Board Operator

Deliana Ranguelova

Set Construction

Theatre Practicum Class




The happy couples, Kitty and Jack (Erin O'Shea and Kyle Young, left) and Charley and Amy (David Mitchell and Whitney Behr, right) celebrate their engagements in Charley's Aunt.

Lord Fancourt Babberley (Andrew Berlien, center) looks on as his friends' girlfriends, Amy (Whitney Behr, left) and Kitty (Erin O'Shea, right), prepare to kiss his cheeks in Charley's Aunt.

Charley (David Mitchell, left) and Jack (Kyle Young, right) prepare to throttle Lord Fancourt babberley (Andrew Berlien, center) in Charley's Aunt.

Kyle Young (Jack) has been a part of Northeastern Theatre for a number of years being both on and off stage.  He would like to thank Rodney, Dan, Anna, and Bill for their guidance and support.

 


Mike Jando (Brassett) is currently a sophomore at Northeastern Illinois University, majoring in Business Administration.  Film and stage acting has always appealed to him since his first role as the “Cowardly Lion” in his Elementary school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. Just starting college Michael was approached by an amateur film maker to act in a short film.  He subsequently acted in several of these short films. Upon positive response and critical praise from entering the films in various competitions Michael decided to pursue a potential career in acting.  With that intention in mind, he is study acting at Northeastern Illinois University, with plans to study at Second City Chicago.  Charley’s Aunt is Michael’s premier stage role. 

 


David Mitchell (Charley) is very excited to be appearing in his third production with the Stage Center Theatre.  He was seen in such past productions as Mrs. Warren’s Profession (Praed), and The Skin of Our Teeth (Fred Bailey), both with the Stage Center.  Other favorite roles: The Dispute (Mesrou, SIUE) Grease! (Ensemble, RSTC) , and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Lefou, RSTC).  Thanks to the CMT Department, family and friends for support and love….”wanna hear a story?”

 


Andrew Berlien (Lord Fancourt), never shying from the opportunity to cross-dress in front of paying customers, makes his return to the Stage Center Theatre for Charley’s Aunt.  A recipient of the 2003 Rebecca Ashley Thatcher Award for Excellence in Dramatics, he has most recently performed in Stage Center Theatre productions of Private Eyes, Arcadia,  and Stage Door.  You may also remember him from, “way back when” in Lend Me A Tenor, and The Real Inspector Hound. A native son of his beloved City of Big Shoulders is delighted to once again take the stage with such a wonderful and dynamic cast.  He would like to thank everyone involved with this production for the opportunity to shine.  Oh, and Mom, Dad, band, all my loved ones...My shoes hurt for you to.

 


Erin O’Shea (Kitty) is new to the Stage Center Theatre.  She recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame where she majored in theatre and minored in music.  Her favorite roles include Paulinka Erdnuss in Notre Dame's production of A Bright Room Called Day and Jo March in the Quad City Music Guild's production of Little Women.  When she is not performing at the Stage Center Theatre, she acts with the Windy Cindy Touring Company in the children's show, Aladdin.  "Lots of love and thanks to my parents and Steve!"

 


Whitney Behr (Amy) is making her second appearance at the Stage Center Theatre, having previously appeared as Susan Paige in Stage Door this past summer.  Whitney is an Environmental Studies major here at Northeastern, who has a nearly unhealthy interest in wetlands.  She still eats meat though, if that’s what you’re wondering


Mark Heard (Sir Francis) is returning to the theatre after more than twenty years with his first appearance with the Stage Center Theatre.  With a background in musical theatre, Mark has appeared in many productions such as Once Upon A Mattress, Jesus Christ Superstar, Bye Bye Birdie, Godspell, Something’s Afoot, Auntie Mame, The Hollow, Hello Dolly, and West Side Story, to name just a few.  Mark has spent many years in “corporate” America and is happy  that the Stage Center Theatre has given him the opportunity to go back to the arts.

 


Tom Camacho (Spettigue) is returning for his fourth production with The Stage Center Theatre  as he continues to pursue his graduate degree from the Communication, Media and Theater Department.  Beyond acting and grad classes, he is dedicated to creating possibilities for youth particularly in the areas of arts and arts based education. He founded, developed and directs The Serendipity Youth Theatre,  a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for Chicago high school students to write and produce theatrical projects covering issues they are dealing with in their lives.  He spent his summer training for the Chicago Marathon where he continues to seek sponsorships to benefit the Aids Foundation of Chicago for his run. Tom is also a grant writer and also writes curriculum based education programs and collaborates with youth and community development organizations to bring arts-based education into underserved Chicago Public Schools. 

 


Cheryl Lyman (Donna Lucia) is appearing  once again with The Stage Centre Theatre.  She is 41 years old and a full time sophomore at NEIU with her eye on a C.M.T. major.  Growing up in Crystal Lake, IL, she was very active in theatre, Readers Theatre, and individual events in high school.  Currently a member of Red Ink Productions of First Free, she was recently seen in Thymley Theatre’s production of Stage Door.

 


Gail Elyese Wittenstein (Ela) is delighted to be performing in Charley’s Aunt alongside an amazingly talented and hilarious cast of characters.  Although this is Gail’s first Main Stage Production here at NEIU, she was last seen portraying a “theatre-loving” cockroach in last Springs’s Studio Series production of Joe and Stew’s Theatre of Brotherly Love and Financial Success.  Gail would like to give a special thanks to her family and friends for their loving support as she continues to pursue her passions.

 


Artistic Staff Profiles____________________

Dan Wirth (Director) has been involved with theatre for almost 40 years. As a professional actor, he toured throughout the United States with The Acting Company. He performed in seven Off-Broadway theatres in New York City. In Europe, he performed at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival and in London’s West End. Regionally, he has appeared at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, and the Utah and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals. An award winning playwright, Dan’s plays have been performed in Ohio, California, and Washington, D.C. Dan has directed for six theatre companies in the Chicago area. This is his 13th year at Northeastern where he has directed The Skin of Our Teeth, The Birthday Party, Dracula, Buried Child, Little Murders, The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It, and The Nerd, four Children’s Theatre productions, and six Summer Transition Program Drama Workshops. Dan has also taught at seven other colleges in Chicagoland. He has an M.F.A. from The University of California, San Diego, and a B.S. from Central Michigan University. He is the proud parent of two terrific young adults, Ian (18) and Kailey (13).

Diana Kwiecien (Assistant Director) How can you write a biography when your life is just beginning?

Jana Anderson (Costume Design) has worked with the Stage Center Theatre for the last few years.  Her work has also been featured by numerous theatre groups including: Redmoon Theatre, Light Opera Works, Irish Repertory Theatre, just to name a few. Prior to coming to the United States, Jana created elaborate costumes for classical opera productions at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.  When she is not preparing costumes for theatre productions, Jana is busy designing and creating unique haute-couture fashions for individual clients in the U.S. and Europe.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer/Co-Tech Director) 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: Mrs. Warren’s Profession, The Skin of Our Teeth, Private Eyes, and Arcadia and for the two Thymely Theatre productions this summer: Stage Door and Taking Steps.

Jessica Kuehnau (Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director) is pleased to be designing sets for the Stage Center Theatre. Since completing her MFA in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, she has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, The Griffin, Vittum Theatre, Light Opera Works and Metropolis Performing Arts Center. Ms. Kuehnau is also the resident set designer at North Park University.




Act I - Go Away
Do you think I should die?
No, look out!



This is no good, sir
Go Go Brassett!
Hallo, Babs!



To--to Miss Spettique
The Notice
Babs enters



Are there any young girls?
Under the table
Coming-Jove-are



Amateur theatricals
Wrestle with the bag
Brassett gets stiffed



I always wanted to be alone, to hear the birds sing
Alma Mater
Kitty Kiss



Chocolate Box
First courting
Your hospitality



Me? No!
Boy! Boy!
Where the nuts come from



Will you accept it?
Act I, Final Tableua
All about Fancourt



You are a puzzle
Babs proposes to Ela
Curtain Call




Beautiful!

Special Thanks………….

The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff; the departments of  Accounts Payable, Budget, Purchasing,  Maurice Terenzio and Laurie Rosenkranz, and Kailey Wirth.


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