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After 22 Years, Alumni Cast to Reprise Roles in “Noises Off”

by Jay Salter '19 | External Communications Coordinator - October 21, 2022


NEWBERRY — Next weekend, Newberry College will celebrate its 100th Homecoming, marking a full century of celebrating the College’s people and the place that brought them together. This year’s commemoration is extra special for another milestone — the 22nd anniversary production of Noises Off. This memorable comedy reunites members of the original 2000 production, its 2010 reunion and a few newcomers for two shows during this year’s Homecoming weekend.


Called “the funniest farce ever written,” Noises Off by Michael Frayn follows an ambitious director and his troupe of mediocre actors as they blunder from a bad dress rehearsal to a spectacularly disastrous performance. The cast and crew are putting together a silly sex comedy titled, “Nothing On.” Doors slamming, lovers frolicking, clothes tossed away, and an errant plate of sardines all figure in the plot of this hilarious and classically comic play. This production is suggested for audiences over 13.


“It's an incredibly fun play,” said Pat Gagliano, interim dean of arts, humanities and social sciences, who directed the 2000 production and both reunions. “The story is we had a group of students, who were seniors at the time, who really wanted to do this play. And it's a really tough play to do because it's long, it has an extensive set.


“We did our show, it was as good as it could be at that time, because it's a complicated show, and most of the characters are a little older than the actors who were playing them. When we redid it [in 2010], we were closer to the ages of the characters as they are listed in the play. And that was a lot of fun too. And then we just wanted to do it one more time,” he said.


Members of the original cast who have returned include Kirk (Seaman) Campbell ’00, former counselor Michael DiPalma, Gagliano, Lawrence Ryan and Steven Stack ’96. Amanda (Pennekamp) Bluestein ’04 was on the 2000 crew and joined the cast in 2010. Jane (Ellis) Martin ’05 came aboard in 2010 as a cast member and as assistant director, both roles she will reprise this year. Newcomers for the 2022 production include Vicky Saye Henderson ’90 and Amy Pontiff ’03.


The director is also assisted by Jeramy Oropeza, instructor of music. The moving set was designed and constructed by Matthew Fuller, director of technical theatre, with assistance from Gagliano and Timothy Roesler.


Campbell is credited with the idea of bringing the cast back together for the 10th anniversary production in 2010.


“Right after we closed in 2000, we were at a cast party and I said to Pat, ‘Hey, we should do this again in 10 years.’ And he kind of brushed it off,” he said. “Then, five or six years later, we were on the phone and he said, ‘You know it’s coming up on 10 years,’ and I said, ‘Let’s do it.’


“And then I jokingly said after the second one, ‘Alright, we’ll see you again in 10 years.’ We started planning that in 2019 and then, of course, the pandemic happened, so we had to delay that reunion by two years,” said Campbell.


The cast agreed that the show is back for its third run not only because the show itself is so much fun, but also because they savor the connections they forged during their time at Newberry.


“I think it's because we all enjoyed each other's company the first two times around,” said Ryan. “[The show] brings people together in a way that, I don’t think any other show that I’ve been in has. … It requires a lot of trust. Moving around the space with all of these other people, you build a relationship with these folks over that period of time.”


As with the best reunions, the occasion is also a chance to appreciate how one’s castmates have grown and the connections sweetened over time.


“I've watched [the rest of the cast] grow over 20 years, from college students — high school, practically — to all of a sudden being fathers and mothers, and careers, and just developing as human beings and wonderful people. They were that beforehand. To see that now is why I'm back and I think that's why everyone else is back,” said DiPalma.


Many of the cast are veterans of the play, and reprising their roles decades later offers certain advantages for the production.


“You pick up a lot of life over the past 20 years, and so the body aches a little bit more, you can be a bit a little bit more genuine with that on stage as a character. And you also can listen a little bit better as an older actor than I did when I was a rambunctious freshman,” said Ryan.


Coming back decades later also has its disadvantages.


“I fall a lot in this play. I fall down a flight of stairs,” said Stack. “And I think if I fall down this flight of stairs in 10 years, I might just, like, break, and I don’t know if I want to do that.”


While most of the cast has at least one run under their belts, opening night will be the first for Henderson and Pontiff.


“The camaraderie with this group is pretty stellar,” said Henderson. “I've been so focused on getting the words and the pantomime and the stage directions into my head, that I feel like I wasn't able to really just relax and get to know everybody as well as I wanted to. But we built in lots of time for us to get to know each other so that we can trust each other and be more intuitive with each other onstage.”


The upcoming rendition has been in progress on and off for the past few years, and a tremendous amount of work has been invested to make it the finest yet. Over the course of the pandemic, the cast rehearsed via Zoom. Finally, in late July, they returned to campus for the intense hands-on work.


“When we did the first production in 2000, it was a typical rehearsal schedule, probably about six weeks, and we met five nights a week,” said Gagliano. “In 2010, we said, ‘How are we going to do this? We live in five different states.’ We have to get together and work it because a lot of the play is timing. … So everybody comes to Newberry, we rehearse nonstop for a week, and we put it all together. … It was just an emotional and physical exhaustion that was totally worth it.”


You can enjoy the reunion production of Noises Off on Friday, Oct. 28, at 4 p.m., and on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. in Wiles Theater. Admission is free, but seats are limited, so arrive early.


Photo: Amy Pontiff ’03, Kirk Campbell ’00 and Michael DiPalma at rehearsal in July 2022.


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