A British farce centering around Lord Fancourt Babberley -- Babbs for short -- who portrays a woman will soon be coming to a Brainerd theater.
Brainerd High School theater students are putting on “Charley's Aunt,” written in three acts by Brandon Thomas. Performances are 7 p.m. July 11-13 in the Little Theatre at BHS. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets can be purchased an hour before the show.
BHS Theater Director Karla Johnson said she picked this play because she thought it would be a fun, fast paced play to direct during the summer. The play is longer than the typical plays the high school performs. The play is 2 hours, 10 minutes long done in three acts, with one intermission.
Johnson said the late 1800s story centers around Babberley, whose friends Jack Chesney and Charley Wykhem at Oxford University want him to impersonate Charley's aunt because they need a woman chaperone as they cannot be alone with the women. Charlie’s aunt was initially going to chaperone the two friends on their dates, but had to cancel at the last minute -- leaving the men in a jam. The two friends want to confess their love to the women and did not want to cancel their dates. Johnson said the plot becomes complicated when the real aunt arrives on stage.
There are 11 cast members and six technical crew members who began rehearsing June 10, five days a week. Auditions again were competitive.
Johnson said having a smaller cast during a summer play makes sense as everyone is busy with work and camps, making it hard for students to commit to doing a play.
“All the students have been working really hard Monday through Friday,” Johnson said, as the schedule is tight with just a month to get all their lines down and acting set.
“It has been intense, but they will be ready,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the overall challenge of the play are the sets, as each are different in each act: Act 1 is a dorm room; Act 2 is outdoors with trees and a bench; and in Act 3 there is a piano on stage.
“There are so many moving parts in this play,” Johnson said. “Luckily, we’ll have some time between acts to set up the stage.
“This play would have been impossible if it wasn’t for the help of Brainerd Community Education sponsoring the show, Brian Bordwell for making the sets and Sandy Harvey, for all her contributions to the show, so I would like to tell them thank you. For them to give their time to us during the summer is incredible.”
BHS senior Noah Barnhart will be playing Babberly, dressing up as a woman. Barnhart said he auditioned for the role as Babberly and said he hasn’t had too many issues playing a woman.
“Skirts are hard to walk in,” the senior said with a grin. “As a male it is kind of hard to stay in a female voice. Sometimes I fall back into a male voice, but I really don’t have to change my voice too much -- I don’t have to go really high, but I can’t get low. I’m getting more used to it.”
Barnhart said before auditions, he read over the dialogues and he found Babberly’s character interesting. He said the play is coming together and he practices a lot outside of rehearsals.
He said the hardest part in the acting is remembering to act like a woman and not a man. Barnhart has been getting assistance on how to act like a lady by one of his female acting partners. He said she helps with how to say some of the phrases.
Barnhart joined theater in 2017 during the One Act play, and has been in every play since. His first main role was Sunny in the musical “Grease,” in the spring of 2018. He has played larger roles as well as supporting roles over the past two years.
“This is my second summer play,” Barnhart said. “I love theater. It’s always been a place for me to be myself. I get to play different types of characters, nothing’s ever the same. I like being able to be a change in someone’s life, like if they watch a play and it changes their life for the better.”
BHS senior Olivia Killoran is playing Charlie’s real aunt, Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez. Killoran didn’t audition for any role in particular, but landed the role as D'Alvadorez. The senior said “Ms. J” -- what the students call Johnson -- typically places her in comical roles, as she thrives in these type of roles.
“This role is so much fun, I love the interactions between Noah and me because he is impersonating me,” Killoran said. “I know he is fake and I mess with him the entire time.
“This character is kind of comical and she generally has a good sense of humor.”
Killoran said her biggest challenge playing D'Alvadorez is having a British accent and the easiest part is her confidence on stage.
Killoran joined theater her freshman year, with her first play in “Alice in Wonderland,” where she landed a small role having one line.
“It was a small role, but it was so much fun,” Killoran said. “I am so glad I joined theater.
“I’ve done the fall show and the musical every year, but not the One Act plays. This is my first summer play, I am so glad I was able to make it work. My work is really flexible so I go to work and then come here.”
Killoran enjoys spending time with her friends in theater, being able to build a stronger bond with them. She wouldn’t have become friends with about half of the people in theater if she never joined.
“I get to go on stage and interact with my friends in different ways,” Killoran said. “I can be silly or serious and … being able to do all these different scenarios with my friends is super duper fun.”
BHS junior Jordan Higgins plays Brassett, one of the servants. This is her first acting play. She was in the school’s spring musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” but had were no lines in that play.
“I’ve been wanting to be in theater ever since I realized there was a theater program at the high school,” Higgins said. “But I didn’t have the guts to join in ninth grade. My family has always been a big fan of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and I thought if I keep telling myself not to do it or I’m not ready then I will never do it. So I thought I might as well try.”
Higgins got her feet wet by being in the chorus in the spring play and she even landed a solo. She said it helped build her confidence.
“I was super excited to audition for it,” she said. “I really enjoyed being in the musical and I really enjoyed working with the people in theater and thought a smaller production would help me get to know people more and I have really enjoyed it.”
Higgins was hoping to be Brassett because it is a smaller role. She said Brasset is in a tough position because she is a servant and if she wants to say something she can’t.
Higgins said her lines are coming along and she plans to join theater in the fall, as she enjoys it.
Jack Chesney, Sam Dirks; Understudy, Max Dwyer.
Charley Wykhem, Dean Root.
Lord Fancourt Babberley (Babbs), Noah Barnhart; Understudy, Atticus Osborne.
Sir Francis Chesney, Aden Crabb; Understudy, Hunter Armstrong.
Stephen Spettigue, Travis Sawyer; Understudy, Michael Boyd.
Amy Spettigue, Gemma Peterson; Understudy, Scottie Svoboda.
Kitty Verdun, Emily-Rose Severson; Understudy, Isabel Haglin.
Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez, Olivia Killoran; Understudy, Jessie Grabouski.
Ela Delahay, Natalie Topete; Understudy, Izabelle Baysinger.
Brassett, Jordan Higgins.
Behind the scenes
Stage Manager, Skyler Fox.
Lights, Hollie Larson.
Sound, Olivia Dilley.
Tech Crew, Mia-Rose Severson, Sage Martinson and George Gebhard.
JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.