Print Edition: November 7, 2012
UFV’s first theatre production of the season begins its previews this week. Once in a Lifetime, a comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, is being directed by Theatre Department faculty member Ian Fenwick. The show presents some daunting challenges for Fenwick with its large cast of 24 actors and well over 30 roles. First produced on Broadway in the 1930s, the play follows the standard three act structure and requires a number of sets (designed by Astrid Beugeling), including a train compartment, a hotel lobby, a New York rooming house and a Hollywood sound stage.
The story follows the comic adventures of three 1920s vaudevillian actors—George, Jerry and May—who give up their rather lacklustre vaudeville career and head out to California, hoping to gain some advantage from the new revolution in sound technology. The silent movies are on the way out and the trio believe it’s a once in a lifetime chance to provide their services as elocutionists and teach the silent movie actors how to speak in the “talkies.”
UFV student Danielle Warmenhoven, who is cast in the role of May, says the show is about the “artificial veneer” of Hollywood. “What happens,” Warmenhoven explains, “is the bumbling idiot of the three of us [George, played by Thomas Smith] gets put in charge of everything” at one of the major Hollywood studios. “The show is really about the double standard of Hollywood.”
Warmenhoven, a seasoned actor, having recently performed in UFV Theatre productions of The Tempest and As You Like It, says that working in such a large cast has been “a lot of fun.”
“The Theatre Department is a tight knit family, so I’ve worked with a lot of the people before,” Warmenhoven says. “Everyone is so great, there’s definitely a really fun spirit of camaraderie.”
Costumes present a particular challenge to designers Heather Robinson and Catrina Jackson, not only because they must be an accurate representation of the era but also because, due to the number of characters, the show requires the design and creation (or construction) of well over 80 outfits. The end result, however, will be a stylish show, true to the spirit of the age.
As opening night approaches, the excitement for cast and crew is building, but there is a strong sense of confidence that the production will be a delightfully entertaining and sumptuously visual experience for the audience.
“I do have a mini heart attack every time I see a poster in the hallway,” Warmenhoven laughs. “But I think we’re in good shape. Things are really coming together now.”
Major roles include Danielle Warmenhoven as May Daniels, Eli Funk as Jerry Hyland, Karliana DeWolff as Susan Walker, Thomas Smith as George Lewis, Melissa Regamble as Mrs. Walker and Gabriel Kirkley as Lawrence Vail – all UFV students. The role of movie producer Herman Glogauer is played by UFV English faculty member John Carroll.
Carroll concurs with Warmenhoven that the cast and crew have a “strong sense of solidarity balanced with a healthy sense of play.”
“This has probably been the most compatible group I have ever worked with on a theatre production,” Carroll says. “Everyone gets along. The atmosphere is playful, but everyone comes to rehearsals ready to work. It’s been a joy.”
“I’m also amazed,” he adds, “how the director (and all the technical staff) has managed to co-ordinate such a big and complicated project. The final result is a great show.”
Once in a Lifetime opens Friday Nov 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the theatre on the Chilliwack Yale Road campus (note: the theatre has not moved to the Canada Education Park; it remains on Yale Road) with reduced rate previews November 7 and 8, and continues November 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Sunday, Nov 18 and 25 at 2 p.m. and Tues, Nov 20, at noon. The Sunday, November 18, matinee is a pay-what-you-can event with a recommended price of $10. Other prices range between $14 to $22. For tickets and information call 604-795-2814 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.