The pageant play on a sunny day

How the Schuster Theatre continues its creativity amidst the pandemic


Nadya Makay

The play was a pageant play, meaning the set included a horse-drawn trailer/carriage.

Chloe Forbes, Editor-in-Chief

Between the engine revs, construction ambience and car speakers blaring Lil Baby and Pooh Shiesty, a slightly more primitive scene unfolded on State Street Sunday.

Horses rounded the corner to Perry Square, carrying in tow the cast of Schuster Theatre’s “Hrotsvitha” chanting “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and dressed in complete 10th century clothing – their trailer reading, “The Plague Players.”

“Hrotsvitha,” written and directed by Alaina Manchester, an assistant professor of theater at Gannon University, followed the group of actors as they came across Hrotsvitha, a 10th century canoness and writer. Hrotsvitha, played by Grace Dibler, is known as the first female historian in history, but living in solitude, she had no one to act out her plays. This is when the Schuster crew comes in.

This rendition of a collection of Hrotsvitha’s short dramas depicts the actors interacting with Hrotsvitha as well as performing the plays for her. All this done while “poking fun” at the plague – a parallel to the current pandemic.

The dramas double as a comedy as the theme of instantaneous death for unpious deeds mirrors that of a Monty Python film, dramatized for full effect and laughter. When actors would confess their love for each other, the plague doctor was there to scorn them and remind them to keep socially distant.

This interpretation made the adult-oriented content more manageable as scenes like the harlot tempting her lover became a laughable scene of Mary “seductively” falling all over a chair.

The play included renditions of Hrotsvitha’s “Abraham,” “Callimachus” and “Dulcitius.” Seniors Seamus Clerkin as John the Apostle, and Petra Shearer as Drusiana, performed with an excellence and passion often lost in collegiate-level theater performance.

Meanwhile, Freshman Hayden Eiss as Callimachus showed promising young talent entering the program.

Utilizing the trailer in addition to a grassy patch of Perry Square for scene transitions, “Hrotsvitha” was able to convey slight but important scenery changes using very few props. This is thanks to Nico Lombardo, in charge of set and prop design. Stacked in the grass, two wooden crates seem to be an eyesore, but in the context of the play, they came together as a bed, a pedestal to confess true love and even a mountain from which to launch arrows.

It was at times confusing, but often is the result of a complex storyline with limited resources.

The cast and crew of Schuster Theatre continue to make the best of their situation, whether it’s an overarching pandemic or the backdrop of a city street. Find the Fall 2021 Schuster Theatre Preview here:



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