New stage, new role

2009-07-01T23:00:00Z New stage, new roleMARGA LINCOLN - Independent Record - 07/02/09 Helena Independent Record

Montana Shakespeare Company returns this year, after a year's break, in a new venue.

This year's production, "Private Lives" by Noel Coward opens July 10 in Tizer Botanic Gardens.

"A garden setting seemed more compatible with how I see Shakespeare," said MSC executive director Kim DeLong. "It's a little more aesthetic setting."

Here the actors need only compete with the chirp of crickets, rather than the occasional drunken revelry and blasts of rock 'n' roll at MSC's previous venue on the Walking Mall.

Shakespeare lovers may be wondering, "Why a Noel Coward play, rather than The Bard"?

"Not even the Royal Shakespeare Company does only Shakespeare," DeLong explained. "A lot do Ibsen. We do great works. If you can play Shakespeare, nothing can intimidate you.

"It ("Private Lives) is one of the most brilliant plays ever written," said DeLong.

Critics have hailed "Private Lives" as "gorgeous, dazzling, fantastically funny," and as a "gleaming and gleeful comedy."

Originally performed in London in 1930, this comedy of manners focuses on glitterati of their day, Elyot Chase and Amanda Prynne, previously married to each other but now divorced, who unexpectedly find themselves honeymooning with their new spouses in the same hotel.

Let the fireworks fly.

DeLong plays the role of Elyot, which was originally played by Coward.

"He's a man of the world of that period," said DeLong. "He's the original Continental jet setter."

He would have traveled in the same circles as Ernest Hemingway and Eroll Flynn.

"A little bored, he's flippant in the face of danger. He believes the world is there for the taking. Let's not take anything too seriously. Seriousness is boring."

His ex-wife, Amanda, played by one of Helena's favorite actresses, Katy Wright, is the quintessential deco woman.

She described her character as raw emotion filtered through witty dialog.

Amanda's new, young husband, Victor Prynne, is played by Jemuel Morris, a professional actor from Los Angeles who, as a Carroll College student studied acting with DeLong.

"He's out of his depth with Amanda," said DeLong of Victor's character. "She is far more worldly, brilliant and witty."

Louise Rosager, a professional Shakespearean actor from Los Angeles, plays Elyot's new, young wife, Sybil Chase.

"She's the ingenue. She's the newlywed. She's in love with the dream of love," said Rosager of her role. "She's really quite spoiled. She's not used to not getting her own way. By behaving like a little girl she thinks she'll get what she wants. But by the end, she comes into her own."

The play is much more than witty dialog, said DeLong. It's also about character development, and at its core, it's a story about real love.

"It's not for the faint of heart," added DeLong.

"If you loved Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in 'The Philadelphia Story,' you'll love this," he said.

"Private Lives" has showcased great acting over the decades, garnering 10 Tony and Drama Desk awards since 1970, alone.

So it may not be The Bard this summer, but theatergoers can expect brilliant theater in a beautiful setting.

"There's a lovely view of mountains, trees and gardens," said DeLong of the Tizer setting.

After a year's sabbatical to visit and study other Shakespeare theaters in the West, DeLong has refined his vision for the future.

It includes a longer season next year.

And he dreams of eventually rotating four plays in repertory.

"Ultimately, the season would start in June and run until the end of September, with shows running both in Helena and Tizer Gardens.

"That's a vision I would be pleased with.

"What we want to develop is a more permanent space in a garden setting.

"There's some terrific actors in L.A. who are unhappy," said DeLong. Often they are acting in ads just to pay their rent.

DeLong would love to bring more actors to Helena who long to concentrate on quality theater.

"To be able to come here, in a garden setting, and act in a brilliant and wonderful be able to focus on their work -- we want to cultivate that."

That's what dreams are made of.

If you go

Montana Shakespeare Company presents "Private Lives" by Noel Coward

When: Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m.

Opens Friday, July 10, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 2.

Where: Tizer Botanic Gardens, 38 Tizer Lake Road (take the Jefferson City exit off I-15)

Tickets: $17.50 general admission, $15 seniors and students, $5 children ages 5 to 12.

For an additional $2.50 (discounted price) visit the gardens

To order, call 459-4386 or visit

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