2010 Stage Center Theatre Mainstage Season
Summer 2010
Hay Fever
by Noel Coward
Directed by Anna Antaramian

This side-splitting comedy by Noel Coward gives us the Bliss family, who is bohemian to the extreme.  The mother is an actress who has left the stage cut continues to wring melodrama out of every situation.  The father is a novelist who is conducting research.  Their son and daughter are beautiful but have less than ideal manners.  Each family member invites a guest for the weekend, but hilarity ensures when all end up pairing off with another’s guest.  This is nothing out of the ordinary to the family, but the guests have no idea what has just hit them.

Noel Coward’s acclaimed comedy, Hay Fever takes us into the home of the “bohemian” Bliss family, whose range of eccentricities baffle their four unsuspecting houseguests. First produces in 1925, Hay Fever captures the “artistic temperament” of Judith Bliss, a retired actress who brings the drama of the theatre into her everyday life; David Bliss a novelist, who conducts research for his next work; and their children Sorel and Simon, whose questionable manners help to redefine the term “dysfunction.”

The Play takes place in the Bliss home, Cookham, England, June, 1920’s
Act I
3:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon

Act II
Scene 1:  Evening same day
Scene 2:  10:00 a.m. Sunday morning

Clark Bender (Sandy Tyrell) recently appeared at the Stage Center Theatre as Mr. Stryver in A Tale of Two Cities. He’s thrilled to be back so soon and thanks Anna for inviting him to play with such a great cast and crew. Thanks to family and friends—particularly the performing Cantwells—for encouraging Clark to pursue his acting bug. Finally, love and kisses to Kim for her support even when she knew it would mean fewer movies, dinners and evenings together.

Jill Matel (Jackie Coryton) is very excited to be returning to the Stage Center Theatre in Hay Fever!! Having studied Theatre and Dance at Barat College in Lake Forest, IL, she has been involved in theatre both on and off Stage in Milwaukee and Chicago for several years. Favorite roles include Nancy in Oliver, Roxy in Chicago, and Hodel in Fiddler. She was last seen at Stage Center Theatre in Stage Door as Bernice Neimeyer in 2008!! Thanks to a great cast and crew!! A very special thank you to RJ for always supporting her decisions and for being her sounding board...I love you!

Ellen Cribbs (Judith Bliss) recently moved to Chicago after studying at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England. She is a published playwright and is awaiting the release of her film, “Mark of Love”, which was adapted from a play she wrote and directed for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ellen has an Acting BFA from Ithaca College and is currently a member of the “Shakespeare All-Stars”, an educational outreach program with the Fury Theatre Company. She would like to thank her wonderful husband, Charles, for all his love and support.

Victoria Montalbano (Clara) is originally from Florida and has a degree in Drama from Syracuse University.  She has performed in countless productions in the Chicagoland area, including a year-long run with Tony n' Tina's Wedding.  She has been lucky enough to study and perform all over the world, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and she toured Greece in the classic, The Trojan Women.  This is her first production on the Stage Center Mainstage.

Brad Cantwell (Richard Greatham) recently appeared at the Stage Center Theatre as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities, in various roles in Vaudeville America, as Richard in Living Out, as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as Amenuensis/Geronte in The Illusion and as Teddy in How He Lied To Her Husband. Brad is thrilled to work with this wonderful group, and he thanks Lisa and McCoy for filling his life with love.

Lisa Cantwell (Myra Arundel) is thrilled to be working with the fantastic cast and crew of Hay Fever. She is currently an instructor in the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre at NEIU. Favorite roles include Mrs. Sowerberry in Oliver!, Rita LaPorta in Lucky Stiff, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Miss Framer in Lettice and Lovage. Directing credits at NEIU include Totally Red! and How He Lied to Her Husband. She would like to thank John and Jessica for working their magic, and the ethereal Anna for making each and every moment with her a treasure. And to Monkey and B, I love you, my boys.

Edward Kuffert (David Bliss) comes to the Stage Center Theatre  from his Jeff-nominated performance as Danforth in Infamous Commonwealth’s The Crucible. City Lit, Inconceivable, Halcyon, Hubris, GroundUp, & Citadel number among other Chicagoland theatres with which he has worked. Favorite credits include Old Kipps (Woman in Black), Henry II (Lion in Winter), Claudius (Hamlet), Badger (Wind in the Willows), Oberon (Midsummer Night’s Dream), & Stage Manager (Our Town).

Joel Thompson  (Simon Bliss) returns to the Stage Center Theatre for a jolly good romp in the English countryside.  He was last seen as Frank Lippencott in My Sister Eileen.  Favorite roles include Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, James Keller from Miracle Worker and the Colonel from Brave Navigator.  When not working on a show or at his 9 to 5 or reading a book. Joel spends his time encouraging a horrible, yet wonderful, habit for video games. He would like to thank his friends and family for their constant support of his art!

Regina Leslie (Sorel Bliss) is delighted to take on the work of Noel Coward here at Stage Center. Ms. Leslie was recently seen on stage at The Chicago Theatre Downstairs in the world premiere of The Quiet Man Tales as Nuala Kierley.  Other theatre performance credits include the national Equity tour of Scrooge, The Musical (U.S. Premiere), A Christmas Carol at The Goodman,  No Way To Treat A Lady (Sarah Stone) and Quilters (Dana)at Illinois Theatre Center,  work at Collaboraction,  Northlight, Theatre at the Center, American Girl Place Theatre (American Girls Revue  as Aunt Cornelia, Tia Dolores)  and The Bailiwick. Regional credits include The Sound of Music at the Ordway, Radio Gals (America) at Peninsula Players, and Cowgirls (Mary Lou) at The Old Creamery. Film and TV credits include leading roles in the indi film State of Jefferson and Haunted Chicago.

Anna Antaramian (Director) has been a member of NEIU’s theatre family for the past twenty 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.

Jessica Kuehnau (Costume Designer) is pleased to be designing her third season for the Stage Center Theatre and third year as technical faculty for NEIU.  Since completing her M.F.A. in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, Ms. Kuehnau has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Pegasus Players, Circle Theatre, Griffin, Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, Adventure Stage Chicago, Metropolis Performing Art Center and Backstage Theatre.  She is also the resident set designer at North Park University and a founding ensemble member of Adventure Stage Center Chicago.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer) joined the theatre faculty at NEIU six years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center Theatre productions.  Most recent designs include Lucky Stiff, An Inspector Calls, Arms and the Man, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lettice and Lovage, The Illusion, Electra, and Charley’s Aunt as well as Thymely Theatre’s productions of Taking Steps and Stage Door.

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.

Carole Brown (Assistant Director) has been seen around the Stage Center Theatre for years, and has loved every dramatic moment of working on this production.  Hay Fever has always held a special place in her heart, and this cast has only added to that love.  Carole is finishing up her undergraduate degree in Communication, Media and Theatre and is an ensemble member of A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company.  She has been able to use a variety of her skills, from acting to stage managing to cooking, in her role as Assistant Director, and wants

Mike Jando (Stage Manager) was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. At a very young age, he discovered his love of comedy.   As he got older, he began to create many short  films, as well as perform in live theater around the Chicagoland area. Mike has begun his training in the art of Improv. He has graduated from Chicago's IO theater and can be found studying and performing at  Second City. His future goals include working on Second City’s Mainstage, and performing with an improv troupe around the city.

Noel Coward’s World

    Anyone who stands on grocery check-out lines, knows that Hollywood is filled with crazy people, unhappy actors who self-destruct in public. Not everyone in Hollywood is crazy to be sure, but, then, not all Frenchmen smoke. This craziness is echoed partly by our politicians and our sports stars. But actors have a special brand of the disease
    We live in an age where nothing is shocking. That such and such was done is never a shocker, but that so and so did it comes often as a surprise which we get used to quickly.  The irony is that while nothing is shocking every little error becomes a headline on the grocery check-out lanes.
    Before these suggestive headlines and explicit articles, there was such a thing as open secrets. For example, many reporters and politicians knew of President Kennedy’s extramarital flings. Similarly, Spencer Tracy’s affair with Katherine Hepburn was widely known by the Hollywood community but no-one spoke about it. Noel Coward, the British author of Hay Fever, was a gay male. His predilections were well known among his friends and colleagues, but neither the British nor American theater-goers were so well informed. The sexual details of a public person’s life, simply, were not for public consumption.
    This era of open secrets led to some wonderful historical ironies. Spencer Tracy’s status as an American icon rested on the perception that he was a good, honest, church-going man faithful to his wife. But in fact he was a self-destructive nasty alcoholic who detested his wife. The historical irony for the gay Coward is that he was the epitome of manly sophistication that heterosexual men aspired to. Think of Cary Grant or, today, George Clooney, and you see what Noel Coward created, but even more so.
    Noel Coward (1899-1973) belonged to a world that never existed; he helped create it and he nourished it with his presence and his plays. It was a world of sophistication; conversations were superficially witty and wittily superficial. Everyone looked good and wore impeccable manners. Clothes were uncomfortable adornments that required wearers to seem at ease and move gracefully. A cigarette could be a sign of one’s elegance as could a man’s silk smoking jacket. And over this world, Noel Coward reigned supreme. It was a world of the theatre, British especially, but we Americans still imported much of our ‘culture’ for the first sixty years of the twentieth century. (Then the Beatles arrived!)
    Here’s an anecdote told me recently by Robert Kiernan, my high school English teacher some forty years ago. In Kiernan’s words:  “Noel Coward was fond of relating about his squiring a young actress to a theater in darkest Hempsted.  ‘If it's a play with a message,’ she said demurely, ‘I shan't dress.’” There’s a whole world inside that young woman’s statement. The notion that one ‘dresses’ to go to the theater is part of that world; that one shouldn’t take serious plays seriously is another. And the final clue is the word shan’t. Who uses the contraction for shall not? Only people bred to perceive a difference between shall and will, a distinction that even Fowler, that old schoolmarm, conceived as all but lost by the beginning of the twentieth century.
    This world is the setting for Hay Fever, the household of the Blisses. Conversations are superficial and witty as they must be. Everyone is self-absorbed and flirtatious.—The title speaks less to rhinitis than to amorous frivolity, and, thus, relationships and attitudes are always morphing ambiguously. And the play is about a well-known actress and her playwright husband and their two adult-aged children: a theatrical family. Into this household, four unprepared invitees arrive and the fun starts.
    In essence, the play is A Weekend with the Bliss Family; in that regard, it compares to our reality TV. shows that follow famous people in their lives. It also has that gossipy quality we find in our check-out line magazines—only Coward’s vision is much gentler.
    He once explained that he wrote the play after spending a weekend at the house of American playwright Hartley Manners and his wife Laurette Taylor, who has inspired such adjectives as “over-the-top” and “extraordinarily theatrical.” These words were not used in reviews of her performances on Broadway so much as by her friends speaking of her off-stage. Coward felt himself lucky that no-one had written Hay Fever before him.
    Like us without the benefit of People Magazine and Star, the guests in this play have no idea just how crazy theater people can be.
                        Patrick McGuire
Senior Lecturer, English
                                                     University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Special Thanks to
The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff, Dr. Katrina Bell-Jordan, the wonderful and generous cast of Hay Fever, Carole Brown, Mike Jando, Caitlin Inman, Carolyn Aguila and Blagovesta Ranguelova.



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