Fall Festival production has humor, meaning and explosions
by Jesse Voth-Gaeddert
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s Fall Festival comedy is the classic tale of boy meets girl, gets engaged and sets off fireworks when their families meet.
You Can’t Take It With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1936, will be on the Krehbiel Auditorium stage Oct. 4, 5 and 6, at 7:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively. Tickets are for sale at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center during regular business hours.
Comments from some of the student actors include: “It is disastrously humorous”; “No fighting, but a lot of action. There are explosions!”; and “It still means something in the end – it is not all just jokes and laughter.”
“Tony Kirby is a charming young man,” said the student in that role, Andrew Walker, senior from Newton. “His attractiveness is talked about a lot by the other characters. He [works] in corporate Wall Street [as] the new vice president of Kirby and Co. – his father is the president – and is very much in love with his father’s secretary, Alice Sycamore.”
Karina Ortman, junior from Marion, S.D., appears in the role of Alice.
“Alice is the ‘normal’ girl in the Sycamore family,” Ortman said. “The rest of her family is really eccentric and has strange and crazy characteristics. Alice gets engaged to Tony and wants her family and her fiancé’s family to get along. This is where the problem starts” – and the fun begins.
“It is when Tony and his parents arrive on the wrong evening to meet the Sycamore family that we discover how difficult it will be for these two families to get along,” said John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts, who is directing the Bethel production of You Can’t Take It With You.
“Not only will the audience be entertained,” McCabe-Juhnke said, “but the play has a very contemporary message. It takes a rather serious look at our society. It is a classic comedy in American theater by two playwrights who have written a number of well-loved plays.
“[The Bethel production] is special because it has a cast of 19 college actors and actresses,” McCabe-Juhnke added, “so most everybody will see somebody they know on stage. We have a mix of people who are familiar to the Bethel stage and also people who are new to the stage. But in their performances, those who are newer do not look like novice actors.”
This seems to be case for Walker, who had no theater experience in high school and has played minor parts in two other Bethel theater productions, The Tender Land and The Secret Garden.
Ortman was involved in theater all through high school, but this is only her second appearance on stage at Bethel College. Her first was a small role in The Secret Garden, last year’s Fall Festival production.
“This is a really funny play, but it still has a good message,” Ortman said. “There is a lot more you can take away from it than just laughter.
“You can see a bit of yourself in the characters and in their little quirks. The humor is clever enough to appeal to both young and old audiences.”
“It is a lot of comedic actors and actresses playing comedic roles, and they are all on stage at the same time for a lot of the play,” Walker added. “It is a lot of funny people in one place. There are always so many people speaking and moving on stage.”
In addition to Walker and Ortman, the cast of You Can’t Take It With You includes Marike Stucky, Moundridge, as Penelope Sycamore; Katie Schmidt, North Newton, as Essie Carmichael; Mekale Chapple, Jones, Okla., as Rheba; Jacob Brubaker, Fairbanks, Alaska, as Paul Sycamore; Dalton Smith, Burrton, as Mr. De Pinna; Micah Smith, Topeka, as Ed Carmichael; Cris Nelson, Wichita, as Donald; Cody Claassen, Whitewater, as Martin Vanderhof; Justin Greger, Goshen, Ind., as Wilbur C. Henderson; Luke Loganbill, Moundridge, as Boris Kolenkov; Abigail Bechtel, Henderson, Neb., as Gay Wellington; Aaron Tschetter, Freeman, S.D., as Mr. Kirby; Leah Towle, Lawrence, as Mrs. Kirby; Bryce Hostetler, Dodge City, as Lead G-Man; Justin Haflich, Pretty Prairie, as Mac; Gabriel Garza, San Antonio, Texas, as Jim; and Abby Christensen, Gardner, as Grand Duchess Olga Katrina.
Production staff is Ethan Koerner, scenic designer and technical director; Audra Miller, Hesston, and Jocelyn Wilkinson, San Antonio, Texas, stage managers; Leah Towle and Rebecca Epp, North Newton, costumers; Emily Luedtke, Wichita, properties; Benjamin Carlson, Hurley, S.D., sound; and Dylan Jantz, Newton, lighting.
Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $8 for non-Bethel students and adults ages 65 and older and $6.50 for children (ages 3–12). Bethel students pay $2 for the Friday or Saturday shows and can attend free on Sunday.
Tickets are available at the bookstore weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or in the Fine Arts Center ticket office starting one hour before each performance, subject to availability. Call 316-283-2500 (credit card orders only).
Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.