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FTT presents “Light Up The Sky”

Meghan Thomassen | Monday, April 16, 2012


The University of Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) will present their production of “Light Up The Sky” this week. Directed by professor Jay Paul Skelton, “Light Up The Sky” was the last play written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Moss Hart. Hart is best known for his stage adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” the musical “My Fair Lady.”

The show is set in 1940s Boston, where Broadway producer Sidney Black has risked a large amount of money on a new playwright, Peter Sloan, and his play, “The Time is Now.”

 “Black will do anything and everything to save the production,” Skelton said. “The length to which he goes to save the show is one of the funnier aspects of our production.”

Senior cast member Kevin Argus will play veteran playwright Owen Turner in this week’s production. Argus’ poise and wit evokes wisdom amongst the conflict of the other actors, but he has a unique challenge with his role.

“I’m one of the only people who doesn’t have anything at stake in ‘The Time is Now,'” he said. “I’m just friends with the producer and the actress, so it’s been interesting to figure out how my character fits in the show.”

With “Light Up the Sky” marking his last show at Notre Dame, Argus said he found the small group dynamic valuable in this production.

“The most fun for me was getting a chance to work on the one or two-person scenes,” he said. “We’re really hammering home specifics of those moments, really figuring out how each moment connects.”

Sophomore Gabriela Nunez will play Stella Livingston, the mother of the play’s diva. Nunez seems right at home on stage, as she dishes out motherly advice with just the right amount of sass.

“I’m kind of the stage mom,” Nunez said.

Sophomore John Corr plays the hyperbolic director, Carleton Fitzgerald, known for his dramatic superstitions. Corr demonstrates range of skill, as his character goes from zero to screaming in three-point-five.

“For the parts when we’re all yelling at each other, Jay had to pull us aside and say, ‘You’re all so nice … stop,'” he said.

Corr’s commitment to the role draws the audience through his manic mood swings. When he grieves, they grieve. And when his little cup of joy overflows, the house floods.

Junior Clara Ritger, who plays an underappreciated ghostwriter, said Skelton cast the show very well.

“There are a lot of characteristics that people can draw from their own lives to apply to their characters,” Ritger said. “For instance, my character is a writer, and she’s trying to get into the business. I find a lot of personal delight in the role, because I understand what this character is going through.”

Ritger said she wanted to audition for the show after she read the script.

“I thought it was a fun show. You have a hard time not laughing at the characters,” she said. “Honestly, the fact that they fail is kind of enjoyable. You enjoy watching them rip each other’s heads off.”

Other standouts include freshman Joe Doyle, who plays mogul Sidney Black. Doyle schmoozes with all the ego of a 1940s dynamo. Freshman Katherine Dudas, who plays Sidney’s wife, Frances, is a lightning bolt onstage. Her eclectic New York personality is the perfect mix of grit and glamour, and her accent is spot-on.

The plagued playwright Peter Sloan, played by freshman Matthew Vincent, is one of the most believable characters in the entire show. Vincent’s vulnerability is raw, and his frustration with show business is real. Anyone who has struggled with the creative process can identify with his mid-performance crisis.

Sloan’s character comments on the inherent selfishness and cattiness of theater. This is one of the show’s problems: at times the arguing can get a little tiresome, and the drama seems overdone. The production has also taken a bit too much liberty with the physical expression of “meta-theatrics.”

Near the end of the performance, a character breaks out of the set and criticizes the bothersome thespians from the outside, but the concept seems tacked-on. Sloan could be the irate voice of Moss Hart, who, in his final play, expresses his qualms with the theater world, but the movement attracted too much attention and needed more support earlier in the show.

Skelton said the humor in “Light Up the Sky” involves a tremendous amount of focus and energy for the cast. The cast engaged in a special acting form for the production, he said.

“We underwent a workshop in an acting technique called ‘Viewpoints’ that helped raise the level of focus and awareness,” he said. “This is so that the actors can change according to the nature of the environment and deal with whatever obstacles thrown in their way during the production.”

Skelton said he has written, directed or produced over 100 productions, as well as shows on campus such as the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. Compared to past productions, Skelton said “Light Up the Sky” was one of the more pleasant shows he’s worked on.

“It’s enjoyable for me to produce and for people to see,” Skelton said. “It’s pure comedy, and it’s been wonderful to work on an out-and-out American comedy.'” 

The play runs in the Decio Mainstage Theatre of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on April 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21, with a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. on April 22. Tickets can be purchased online at performingarts.nd.edu or by calling the ticket office at (574) 631-2800. Prices are $15 for regular admission, $12 for faculty, staff and seniors and $7 for students.

Contact Meghan Thomassen at mthomass@nd.edu