Main Street Theater makes magic with UH Students
A collaboration between Main Street Theater and UH’s School of Theatre and Dance has produced a stunning rendition of “Peace in Our Time.” Noël Coward’s 1946 drama artfully answers the question: What if England had lost the Battle of Britain?
According to Coward, the Nazis would occupy most of England, but the indomitable English spirit of Coward’s heroes never falls to the Nazi regime. One character expounds on how happy she is that England has fallen because it will force the people into a strong, unified nation instead of a divided people squabbling over trivial matters.
“The play was true to the British mindset in the face of an occupation which they never experienced,” said Tracy Hester, an environmental law professor at UH’s Law Center who attended Saturday night’s preview performance.
The onstage action occurs in a neighborhood pub, the Shy Gazelle, which is complete with stained glass lampshades, antiqued mirrors and an enormous wooden bar that wouldn’t look out of place in any local establishment. The stage is set up nearly in the round, which gives the audience the feeling of being in the pub with the characters.
Perhaps because of this, Saturday’s audience was drawn not only into the action but also the dry British humor that fills the play.
“The play is well-suited to this theater,” Hester said. “The pub extends to the audience.”
“We kept waiting for them to serve us,” said Hester’s wife, Linda.
Director Rebecca Greene Udden’s cast handled even the details well — for example, the background characters continue with their own business during the central action, figeting and pantomiming conversation, which lends to the feeling that the audience is more involved with the play than simply observing it.
Skyler Sinclair, an acting performance junior at UH, performs the role of Gladys in the Main Street production.
“I’ve been challenged as an actor by being cast in such a historically heavy piece while performing in an intimate space that allows for no mistakes,” said Sinclair. “By observing these professional actors work, I’ve really grown as an actor.”
This is the first of many collaborations between the UH School of Theatre and Dance and local professional theatre groups including Main Street Theater, Stark Naked Theatre and more.
“It’s all about stepping confidently into the unknown, but with all of the players understanding the challenges inherent in something like this, everyone is collaborating well and it seems to be progressing fairly smoothly,” said Jim Johnson, Director of the UH School of Theatre and Dance Director Jim Johnson.
In a press release, Udden echoed Johnson’s enthusiasm for the collaborations from her point of view as a director.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to tap into this rich talent pool,” Udden said. “I never worried that I wouldn’t be able to find exactly what I needed for this production.”
“Peace in Our Time” opens Sept. 18 and runs through Oct. 19 at Main Street Theater: Rice Village. For more information about ticket prices and showing times, visit MainStreetTheater.com.