Summer Theater Performance: Twice the Enjoyment | Thomas Nelson Community College

Summer Theater Performance: Twice the Enjoyment

June 27, 2019
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Although it was announced last December that Thomas Nelson’s summer production by Performing Arts would be a doubleheader of “Trial by Jury” and “The Sorcerer,” the planning of pairing the two Gilbert and Sullivan operettas was a few years in the making.

Torrie Sanders, the College's theater manager and program administrator, and Michael Sundblad, assistant professor of music, had been talking for at least two years about doing “Trial by Jury.” However, it is short at about just 25 minutes so they needed a show to accompany it, but could not find the right match. “Cox and Box,” which Gilbert wrote without Sullivan, often is performed in conjunction with “Trial by Jury.” But Sanders’ opinion is that “Cox and Box” isn’t as good or exciting as “The Sorcerer.” Since they already had committed to doing “The Sorcerer” as their annual summer operetta, the idea was born to pair it with “Trial by Jury.”

“We got to talking about it … (and said) what if we make ‘Sorcerer’ a little bit shorter and add ‘Trial by Jury’ to it?” Sanders said. “They’re both about love in kind of a twisted way.”

The result is a standard length operetta of about one hour, 45 minutes to two hours. The performances, which start July 12, will open with “Trial by Jury.” After a short transition, “The Sorcerer” will begin. The intermission will be between Act I and Act II of “The Sorcerer.”

Sanders said the biggest benefit of doing two shorter shows on one night is the ability to highlight more of the College’s students.

“Because they are two separate operas, we have twice the amount of principal roles,” she said. “We have the talent. Nobody had to double, which is awesome.”

Another bonus is that the principals for “The Sorcerer” are the ensemble for “Trial by Jury” and vice versa.

“It makes our ensemble stronger,” Sanders said.

There also were some logistical hurdles that had to be cleared. First, two sets had to be designed, and Sanders had to build them so they could be changed quickly. She didn’t want the intermission after just 25 minutes. Secondly, since the shows are set in different time periods, there was more work for the costume crew. She admitted some of that can be handled with robes, but most of the cast will have to undergo major changes.

“I’ve got the overture of ‘The Sorcerer’ to get everybody from Time Period A in ‘Trial by Jury’ to Time Period B in ‘The Sorcerer.’ That’s not a lot of time,” Sanders said.

Sanders has handled the dialogue re-writes, and Sundblad and one of the College’s regular contributing community members, Jeff Joyner, are in charge of re-writing of the lyrics.

“He’s really good at it,” Sanders said of Joyner.

David Garrett, who is stepping down as the College’s assistant theater manager in late July to pursue a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, is the technical director for the doubleheader. He likes pairing the two.

“‘The Sorcerer’ is a great piece but it’s one that has more dialogue than it really needs,” he said. “For some of their plays, (Gilbert and Sullivan) were not very good playwrights. They were excellent at opera, music and telling a story. But when it comes to the business of dialogue, that was not their strong suit. … But the songs from both are really fun.”

Dates for the shows, which will be held in the Dr. Mary T. Christian Auditorium in Templin Hall, are July 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday,  and 3 p.m. Sunday. Get tickets by CLICKING HERE.

In other news, Sanders announced the lineup for the 2019-20 academic year, which will start with the fall production of “Chicago.”

“We’ve been trying to get the rights for at least the last four years. We finally got it,” she said. “That’s really exciting because that’s a piece Michael and I have both wanted to do for a while.”

The College will present “She Kills Monsters” in the spring, followed by the summer production of “Gondoliers,”  another Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration.

“It’s a good season, (but) it’s going to be a hard season,” Sanders said.