WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” the second Main Stage production of the 2016-17 academic year, brought the Proscenium Theatre to life from Feb. 23 to March 5. Presented by Eastern’s Theatre Program and Drama Society, the play was a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s early comedy about young people exploring love, friendship and the temptations of city life.
Originally produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival, “Two Gentlemen of Verona” was adapted by award-winning playwright John Guare. It received rave reviews after its December 1971 opening and won the Tony Award for Best Musical of 1972.
“‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ was the third Broadway production I ever saw. I was 10 years old,” said Theatre Professor David Pelligrini, director of the play at Eastern. “It endured in my mind as a show I would like to direct. My father fostered my early love of theatre, and I remember vividly our discussion on the way home about how the Shakespearean verse and allusions were modernized so ingeniously in this show.”
Students took the lead on many design and management aspects of the production, including set, lighting and costume design. “The greatest challenge was to light a show of this magnitude,” said lighting designer Megan O’Brien ’17, a theatre and business administration double major. “Previously, I had only designed in black box theatres for typical plays, so designing in the new Proscenium Theatre for a musical was a challenge. The new technology that we have accesses to, like LED lights, added another challenge but also created great opportunity from a design standpoint.”
The show’s intermission featured a fashion show, showcasing the creations by students in Eastern’s costume-fashion design minor. “The greatest challenge was taking all my research, sketches and swatches and turning them into real life pieces to be worn,” said theatre and business administration double-major Troi Branham ’18. “I had never created something from scratch like that, but the outcome was so fantastic that this challenge also became my greatest success.”
“Two Gents” was the first Eastern production to utilize a live band of musicians in the pit of the new Proscenium Theatre. Regarding performing in the debut season of the venue, English major Denham Demac ’19, who played the character Launce, said: “I’m just honored that I will have left a mark at Eastern. The fact that I was one of the first actors to perform in that new theatre was an incredible opportunity.”