|OLSWA’s Ninth Theatre Production: A Dramatic Story of Conversion|
|Thursday, 10 March 2011 15:49|
What if you are an actor, and you have to play the part of someone you hate? Genesius, a pagan Roman actor and director of the third century A.D., finds himself in just such a situation when the emperor, Diocletian, orders him to put on a play about a Christian martyr for the emperor’s own amusement. Playing the lead role of the martyr Adrian, Genesius is torn between his loathing for Christians and his desire to understand their point of view in order to get into his part. The experience turns out to be life-changing. Genesius becomes a Christian, and ultimately a martyr as well.
It is a powerful tale that points to underlying truths about the power of drama to change minds and hearts, and about the impact that the Christian witness had on the pagan Roman world. Henri Ghéon’s The Comedian, a three-act play based on the legend of St. Genesius, was presented by OLSWA’s Don Bosco Drama Club on March 4, 5, and 6.
It had been several years since OLSWA had put on a play with a religious theme, and the president of the Don Bosco Drama Club, Dr. Christine Schintgen, thought the time was ripe.
Nelson Morris as Emperor Diocletian“Many Christian dramatic works are very sentimental, so I was wary of the idea,” said director Maria Henry. “But when Christine and I read Ghéon’s work, we were both fascinated. Although written in the 1920s, the language of the script is very modern, intelligent, humourous and serious. From the first read-through, the student actors were instantly attracted to it.”
The Comedian had an excitement and humour of its own—as well as a good deal of dramatic tension. “Genesius in the play is struggling to find purpose—and ultimately love—in his life, not unlike many of us in this generation,” Henry explains.
Matthias Bowles interpreted the lead role as Genesius with intelligence and subtlety, drawing the audience into the character’s rich emotional life. He was supported by Alexa Bulman as Poppaea who convincingly carried off the part of a classic “drama queen” who wants Genesius to have eyes only for her. Nelson Morris was a roaring success as the jovial but self-worshipping emperor, and Jean-Pierre Giguère was confident and engaging as Rufinus, the emperor’s chamberlain.
Jamie Hanlon, Alexa Bulman, and Lucy Landry as Triphon, Poppaea, and Albina, respectively.Many other colourful characters completed the scene, including a troupe of temperamental actors, a pretentious playwright, a love-sick general, a long-lost brother, a slave, a musician, fierce guards, a Greek chorus, and “the Mob,” hungry for blood.
Director Maria Henry is originally from Brooklyn, NY, and trained in theatre at NYU, the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco, and Hunter College, with an internship at the Manhattan Theater Club and classes with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has been involved in many productions, both professional and amateur.
She reflects: “Having been away from theatre for some time, it was so much fun to be in the rehearsal process again. I love working with these students—it is thrilling when a student actor finds the passion, the core or ‘the truth’ in his or her character—which is what good acting is all about.”
The cast of the Don Bosco Drama Club's production of Henri Ghéon's The Comedian
Actors (left to right) Julian Zakrzewski, J.P. Giguere, and Benedict Baklinski portray Belisarius, Rufinius, and Polydorus, respectively.
Don McGeragle and Matthias Bowles as Felix and Genesius
Paul Taylor as Hermes
The Roman Chorus