Oliver! is another big production in a similar vein as “Fiddler on the Roof”and “Brigadoon” of Chaminade theatre’s recent past. “It has something significant to say about social stratification and the way we treat our children and what we need to do for them,” said Bro. Gary Morris who both directed and starred in the play. “The novel it’s based upon, Oliver Twist, actually caused such a stir in London at the time that it was published in the early 19th century, that Parliament wrote up and put child labor laws into place.”
“Oliver!”successfully debuted last Thursday night and was, as always, the fruit of the collective labor of a dedicated cast and crew that spanned all ethnicities and ages, with the youngest actors being in kindergarten. The lead role was played by sixth grader Kevin Durkin and “Oliver!”marked his theatrical debut and Morris commended Durkin’s dedication to preparation for the role going so far as to take singing lessons with professor Tim Carney in addition to his already demanding role.
The play, felt very lighthearted in its nature and overall tone, although it did make sure to acknowledge the grim subject matter of its storyline, that being the exploitation of child workers. The songs were delightful and generally cheery, with the lines being read with the kinds of lovable tongue-in-cheek mannerisms that add to what make local productions enjoyable.
The campus productions retain some of the endearing qualities of small school plays while still being performed with a noticeable attention to professionalism. One instance that was particularly exemplary of this was a scene in which the entire cast was performing a big dance number, and Morris was dancing atop a bridge that was in the center of the stage; and was glancing back and forth and watching over his cast- being given the ideal seat of a director being set front and center of the action to analyze his cast.
Morris has regularly starred and directed in the school plays for years, but recently he is not only being asked to put on his directing and acting hats for school productions, but has now been the effective technical director for the past few years, as well. This is an example of one of a few major changes Morris sees necessary for the administration to put into place that have become long overdue, most prominently of which is the need for more adequate space for set construction.
“It continues to be a major source of grief for the crew and has some harsh consequences for the students, such as depriving them of the entire experience of being involved in the production of the set design itself, as it is currently done separately from rehearsal and class space,” said Morris.
With space being limited, the cast has been repeatedly forced to move rehearsals to whatever space is available on campus, and oftentimes in Morris’ classroom in Ching Hall, which is ubiquitously overcrowded with classes and set pieces. The administration has dragged its feet in granting Morris’ repeated requests for more production space either on or off-campus he said, and Morris has said to have suggested a compromise in which the school could rent a site nearby campus that would be close enough to be accessible to students and thus bypass the financial burden and inconvenience of having to construct an entirely new space on campus.
As mentioned before, Morris explicitly stated the need for a technical director, as he bluntly put, “when there is technical direction, one must have a technical director.” However, Morris claims to be currently stretched thin on the increasing tasks being asked of him for each successive production, and gave his request an underlined tinge of desperation or immediacy, as he stressed that even a part-time employee would be a significant relief to his current workload on each play.
However, despite the various obstacles always presented over the course of a theatre production, and Morris’ request for additional staff and space still remaining unfulfilled; “Oliver!” successfully ran for all four showings over the weekend.