Schuster set to open ‘Poor’ this weekend

Have you ever been to a play where you did not have to be quiet?  That is the situation, when “The Poor of New York” hits the stage at the Schuster Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday.

The Dion Boucicault melodrama is staged in the panic of 1837 and is fast forwarded to 1857 following the untimely death of a sea captain, Mr. Fairweather (Keefer Kopco).

Fairweather invests his entire life savings with soon-to-be absconded banker, Mr. Gideon Bloodgood (Matt Germeyer), and returns to retrieve the investment after hearing of the soon to be default and dies of apoplexy.

Twenty years later the only witness to the underhanded doings of Bloodgood is his former clerk, Badger (Becca Coleman), who returns with the receipt that was dropped on the floor that fateful night 20 years  earlier and Badger begins the process of exploitation.

The hero of the story, Mark Livingstone (Todd Paropacic), must deal with poverty he has never experienced and through that process becomes understanding and willing to work at making a difference in the world.

Paul Fairweather (Kopco), the son and split image of the elder Fairweather who died, is unknowing of the scheme that Bloodgood and Badger were a part of so many years ago.

Mrs. Fairweather (Paula Barret) and Lucy Fairweather (Allison Kessler) suffer through the long and impoverished years always looking to be better than ever.

Germeyer, a sophomore theatre communications arts major, said, “To find a character worthy enough to portray Gideon, I had watched several different versions of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and I studied several different Disney villains such as Hades, Jafar, Captain Hook and Professor Ratigan,” he said. “I also watched ‘Gangs of New York’ with Leonardo DiCaprio to see what it was like during the time of the play — the 1850s.”

Germeyer learned that melodrama is a very different type of play to get ready for. He spent many hours trying to find a character and movements that were overall annunciated. He also pulled out every memorizing technique he knew to help him learn his lines.

Gideon makes appearances in all scenes except for two of them. “It is the biggest role I have ever had to prepare for, and the most exhausting,” he said.

“I hope that when the audience leaves the theater, they feel great distain toward Gideon Bloodgood, with a small glimmer of hope that he will have a change of heart.”

The just over two-hour melodrama is directed by The Rev. Shawn Clerkin, who said “I want them to first enjoy themselves, second appreciate the melodramatic form and recognize its connection to contemporary popular entertainment and then maybe a bit of social justice at the end.”

The opportunity for the audience to participate and interact with the performers is unique to melodrama and should be a wonderful visit to yester year.

The play takes the stage 8 p.m. on Thursday Sept. 29-Oct. 1 and 8 p.m. Oct. 6-8 and 2 p.m. Sunday.

For more information call the Schuster Theatre Box Office at 814-871-7494.

ROB LOPEZ

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