Students, audiences experience the past through theatre

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Theatre students at Fort Worth Country Day School transported audiences back to the 1950s with their performance of the 1955 musical comedy, “Damn Yankees,” last weekend.

The 50s-inspired musical is based on the book, “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,” by Douglass Wallop. The story focuses on the character Joe Boyd, who sells his soul to the devil to become Joe Hardy, the baseball hero of his favorite team, the Washington Senators, Melodee Halbach, FWCD theater teacher and director of “Damn Yankees,” said.

Hardy becomes a great baseball player and saves the Washington Senators from their history as the losing team. However, as he experiences fame, he decides that it is not worth giving up his wife and his old life to be a baseball star.

Peter Bowden, who played the young Joe Hardy, said he would describe the play as being about cheap versus real thrill and the desire for instant gratification.

“The whole idea of the flashy wealth and fame that everybody yearns for often isn’t as fulfilling as the home life, the true happiness, the more sedate everyday life joy,” he said.

In addition to exploring ideas such as instant gratification, the play also allowed students to become familiar with another time period.  Stephen Hwang, who played Mr. Applegate, a salesman who offers Hardy the deal to sell his soul, said he loved portraying a different era.  Now he wished he was born in the 50s.

Other cast members also enjoyed their experience of portraying characters from another era.

Sydney Darrow, who played the reporter Gloria Thorpe, said she loved the attitude of the 50s. There was a different language, in which hand gestures and body language had to be emphasized.

“Everything was bigger and bolder and tons of fun,” she said.

The actors had to use the mannerisms, language and overall optimism of the time period in their performance said John Kouris, who played Van Buren, the Washington Senators manager. He said this gave him the opportunity to learn more about the 50s.

Girls of the chorus had to do research on hairstyles and makeup of the era Meghann Kasal, a member of the chorus, said.

Halbach said the FWCD Performing Arts department tried to select and alternate between modern and classic performances. FWCD students performed the modern musical, “Urinetown” last year, meaning this year, a more classic piece such as the 1955 musical, “Damn Yankees,” was selected.

The musical included a cast of 49 students, 17 of them boys, Halbach said. In her more than 30 years at the school, she said she has never had that many boys on a cast. This unprecedented amount, allowed the opportunity to form the baseball team of the Washington Senators, she said.

FWCD theatre presents two performances each school year, one in the fall and the other in the spring, Halbach said. Last October, it performed “Rehearsal for Murder,” according the FWCD website. The selections for the 2012-2013 school year, including the musical for spring 2013, will be selected in May. 

 

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