Fall Arts Performances Bring Thrills and Fright

Thursday, November 5, 2020
Dancers perform "The Space Between" in the windows of Lenfest Hall as part of the
Fall Dance Concert. 

This year’s fall season at the Burgin Center for the Arts may look a little different, but as usual, it includes plenty of opportunities for students to share their talents, take the stage, and wow audiences with their artistic abilities. The show has gone on, despite performances being closed to in-person audiences. Three Stony Batter Players performances and the Fall Dance Concert are available via YouTube premiere on the Mercersburg Academy YouTube channel this fall.

Stony Batter Players presented The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang, directed by Laurie Mufson (arts faculty and director of the Burgin Center for the Arts), premiered on YouTube November 13, and was available on demand through November 14.. Students and faculty were invited to gather safely on a limited basis to watch the show November 12 in the Burgin Center’s Simon Theatre. 

Having casually wandered onstage, George (Linden Amster ’23) is informed by Stage Manager Meg (Meagan Owens ’22) that one of the actors, Eddie, has been in an auto accident and George must replace him immediately. Apparently no one is sure of what play is being performed, but George (costumed as Hamlet) seems to find himself in the middle of a scene from Private Lives, surrounded by such luminaries as Sarah Siddons (Emma Shuford ’22), Dame Ellen Terry (Mel Cort ’23) Mary Anderson (Keri-Ann Denis ’24) and Sir

"The Actor's Nightmare" was showcased on YouTube November 13–14.

Henry Irving (Kevin Hang ’24). As he fumbles through one missed cue after another, the other actors shift to Hamlet, then a play by Samuel Beckett, and then a climactic scene from what might well be A Man for All Seasons—by which time the disconcerted George has lost all sense of contact with his fellow performers. Yet, in the closing moments of the play, he rises to the occasion and finally says the right lines, whereupon make-believe suddenly gives way to reality as the executioner’s axe (meant for Sir Thomas Moore) instead sends poor George to oblivion—denying him a well-earned curtain call.

Dan Zagorri ’23 filmed The Actor’s Nightmare and did the post-production editing.

On November 14 and 15, Stony Batter Players performed Nutcracker and The Mouse King: A Virtual Family Adventure. Arts faculty member and assistant director of the Burgin Center for the Arts Kelly Dowling led an ensemble of 13 students in adapting the original tale for a live production, which was performed live once each day via Zoom. A recording of the show will be available on the school’s YouTube channel throughout the holiday season; check back for the link.

“While the Nutcracker Ballet is a holiday staple, fewer people know the original short story which features a lot more weird and wacky details about the Nutcracker and his curse,” said Dowling. 

The cast included Ava Anthony ’23 as Dr. F. Stahlbaum and Candy Queen, Charlie Betkowski ’24 as Fritz Stahlbaum and Knight of Knougat, Kaitlyn Dowling ’23 as Beta Mouse King and Master Marshmallow, Frances Elwood ’23 as the Nutcracker, Bridget MacPhaille ’24 as Louise Stahlbaum and Kit Katherine, Dalila Melkumova ’21 as Marie Stahlbaum and Queen Mouserings, Langley Owen ’24 as Zed Mouse King and Princess Perlipat, Chelsea Seaby Bruno ’21 as Dame Drosselmeier, Schuyler Waters ’23 as Clara Doll and Candy King, Iseo Yun ’24 as Alpha Mouse King and Baroness Blueberry, Dan Zagorii ’23 as Stage Manager/Zoom Admin, Samuel Zhao ’24 as Craven Cavalryman and Warden Watermelon, and Jasmine Zhu ’22 as Dr. G. Stahbaum and Mistress Molasses.

“The one-hour show is full of audience participation (if you're brave enough to leave your webcam on)  and is sure to entertain children of all ages,” Dowling said. “Incorporating members of our Virtual ’Burg community, the production includes performers in four different time zones and five different countries.”

Dracula! The Radio Play, by Philip Grecian based on his stage play and the novel by Bram Stoker, premiered on YouTube October 30 and was available through Sunday, November 1. A release watch party for students took place October 30 in the Hale Field House. The show was directed by arts and English faculty member Matt Maurer. 

The cast included Michael Brannan ’23 as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Elle Cole ’24 as Birdie, Dylan Dowling ’21 as Jonathan Harker, Kaitlyn Dowling ’23 as Count Dracula, Tony Huang ’24 as Dr. Jack Seward, Andrew Orders ’23 as R.M. Renfield, Dolly Skuba Gray ’23 as Williams, Charlotte Stauffer ’22  as Mina Harker, and Chelsea Ward ’23 as Lucy Westenra. 

Jessica Doubell, arts faculty, was the show’s technical director. Maria Akaras ’24, Lyle Byrd ’24, Conrad Lee ’22, Ellie Miller ’23 were the sound crew. The show also featured original music by faculty member Bryan Morgan ’07. Zagorii filmed the show and did the post-production editing.

This year’s Fall Dance Concert premiered on YouTube Saturday, November 7, and was available on demand until Sunday, November 8. In addition to the performance group dancers, students from Dance Composition I also participated. Denise Dalton is the director of dance. 

The show included ballet from Giselle (choreographed by Hans Nelson), tap (choreographed by Nancy Cogan-Hershberger), and hip-hop (choreographed by Michael Reyes), as well as student-choreographed pieces. Student choreographers included Joie Xiao ’22 (who participated virtually from China); Ryan Bland ’21 and Sarah Noorbakhsh ’21, who performed a duet; Rose Potter ’21 and Maddie Dawson ’21, who choreographed a large hip-hop group piece; Matthew Tavarez ’22 and Destiny Rodney ’22, who choreographed one of the group numbers; and Noorbakhsh, Tavarez, and Rodney, who choreographed their solos.

Twenty-one dancers participated in a large site-specific piece choreographed by Dalton in the windows of Lenfest Hall (home to Mercersburg’s library) titled "The Space Between.” The piece represents virtual computer windows, and the campus audience viewed the October 31 performance from the exterior of the building. (A recording from the performance was included in the Fall Dance Concert.)

Visit Mercersburg’s YouTube Channel and view more details about the fall programing.