Between theater companies and theater facilities, Athens, Georgia, has a range of locations that contribute to the theatrical arts. (Infographic/Mary Martin Harper)Just when the people of Transylvania think the days of the Frankenstein family’s monsters are over, Frau Blücher and Igor’s cackling laugh take over the stage. The contagious effects of this laughter spread throughout the audience, and the joyous sound rings through the Fine Arts Theatre on the University of Georgia’s campus.
Inspector Kemp and the townspeople search high and low for the Monster who initially communicates purely through grunts and moans, failing to fit in with the townspeople.
Theater is often exhilarating for those involved and has the unique opportunity to impact audiences in a different way than other mediums of storytelling. In UGA Theatre’s show, “Young Frankenstein,” all the Monster wants is acceptance, for someone to see something in him.
At Athens Little Playhouse (ALPs), a local children’s theater company, Lynne Thomas, the artistic director, says that kids learn how to communicate and interact with one another with the comfort of a script in their hands.
Theater has a way of uniting audience members and people who are a part of a production. Even more than creating unity, theater seems to bring a sense of community and further, a sense of self-confidence. Age and experience aside, people are able to connect through theater because in theater, quirks are appreciated, and people find acceptance.
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The actors in the upcoming show, “Young Frankenstein,” use several different processes to transform into their characters. They are in their final rehearsals for UGA Theatre’s last show of the season which will open this Friday, April 5, 2019, at 8 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theatre on the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens, Georgia. ◾️ ◾️ This musical performance is directed by George Contini, but Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan wrote the original musical that opened on Broadway in New York City on Nov. 8, 2007. The musical is based on the movie, “Young Frankenstein,” that was directed by Brooks and premiered in 1974. Both the musical and the movie were inspired by Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein.” @ugatheatre @universityofgeorgia #youngfrankenstein #ugatheatre #musicaltheatre #finearts #universityofgeorgia #athensga #theatre #comedy
Responses to Shows Are Positive
The curtains closed on UGA Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein” for the last time on Sunday, April 14, 2019. The overall feedback and reflections on the show were positive. After the performance on April 11, 2019, Lauren King, who played Frau Blücher, said that she felt “rejuvenated,” as if she could run several miles.
“The best part of being onstage is that it changes every night,” King said. “It’s different every single time, so I always feel like I’m discovering new things, and I have new opportunities to play.”
King said she has even had people direct message her on Instagram saying that they enjoyed the show or that she was their favorite character.
Other audience members said that they were impressed with the show and the production crew’s work. Phyllis Chastain and Jane Self, two audience members, unite in their enjoyment of theater, and these friends said that they come to shows together frequently.
“It was quality,” Chastain said. “We come all the time. We usually go to the Celler [Theatre] because they have more productions down there, but it was nice to see this broad production with all those things involved — the costumes, the setting, the lighting, the music and so many young people acting.”
Drew Hoffman, a first-year student at UGA, found himself at his first theater production at UGA to cheer on two of his fraternity brothers, Lucas Iddings and Greg Lloyd. Several of Hoffman’s other fraternity brothers came to the show, creating a community of friends that cheered from the audience.
“I really enjoyed it,” Hoffman said. “It was super funny. It was very provocative.”
The children at ALPs gave their last performance of “Once Upon a Mattress” on March 31, 2019. Heather Hogan, the business manager, and Chris Cestaro, the theater manager, said that the audience was entertained and that the kids conveyed the humor of the show well.
The majority of the feedback was positive, and people were impressed with the actors and actresses as well as the costumes and sets. Cestaro said that she enjoyed watching the kids’ reactions on opening night as the audience laughed that the jokes that they had tirelessly rehearsed.
“The audience went out of the theater much lighter and happier than when they entered,” Hogan said.
The humor of the show brought the actors, actresses and audience members together and banded them together in laughter.
Theatre Creates Community for Participants
Cast members become a sort of family during rehearsals and performances, according to John Galas, the actor who played Igor in “Young Frankenstein.” David Cowan, who played Inspector Kemp, agreed.
“The whole thing about acting is you’re creating intimacy and empathy and human connection with all of these people, even in something ridiculous like this [‘Young Frankenstein’],” Cowan said.
For him, in order to create a level of intimacy in onstage relationships, real friendships must form offstage. The hard part is that after developing a sort of family with other cast members, actors must move on to the next project with a new cast.
“We’re still all 12-year-old kids who were bullied who are looking for people to hang out with who like the same kind of shows as we do,” George Contini, the show’s director, said.
While not everyone is bullied or teased, theater brings a sense of belonging that impacts a number of lives.
For several moms of children involved at ALPs, the time their children have spent there has been beneficial and impactful. Tiffanie Reid’s children, Desmond Schmutte, 12 years old, and Amelia Schmutte, 10 years old, have more self-confidence after acting on stage.
Reid says that elsewhere, Desmond and Amelia can be somewhat shy, but onstage, they have a new level of bravery. Along with courage, new friendships and strong connections have developed through acting at ALPs. Lisa Rodgers’ 14-year-old son, Alex Rodgers, speaks up in class — a courage Rodgers believes ALPs brought out in him.
Jay Holl, the facilities coordinator at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in Athens, Georgia, said that participating in theater is like an “addiction.” He used to think it was a “waste of time,” but once he got involved at Town & Gown Players, a theater company on Grady Avenue, he changed his mind.
Holl now believes that theater teaches children valuable lessons such as public speaking and has even worked with ALPs. With his appreciation of theater, he keeps up with maintenance and booking at Seney-Stovall Chapel, a historic building that hosts theater performances in addition to many other events.
Theater Communities Invite Me In
Even though the humor of “Young Frankenstein” seems a little over the top, I laugh and smile at the absurdity and playfulness of the show. The actors and actresses are entertaining, and for a few hours, I am transported to Transylvania — a place where mad scientists fall in love and a monster learns to tap dance. For a couple of hours, I am a part of the cast and a part of a new story.
At ALPs, I watch the little girls excitedly look through a rack of princess dresses, each waiting to be fitted for a costume for the musical, “Once Upon a Mattress.” Afterward, they return to the stage with the other kids to learn the songs for the show. The parents and staff work as a team to create sets, costumes and more for each production.
I believe that theater pulls people in by its ability to unite a community, that its lessons about courage and friendships are meaningful to all participants.
Regardless of age, I think we find the places that accept us most and bring us true happiness,” Hogan says. “Theater does that for more people than any other medium I know.”
Mary Martin Harper is a junior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.