Gannon University gets ready to finish its 2013-2014 season with a belly-busting farce. Stephen Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” opens on Gannon’s stage Thursday, April 24.
The Schuster Theatre closes what has been a busy, although highly entertaining, season with “Forum.” Students involved in the show range from those closing out their senior year to freshmen slowly immersing themselves into the realm of Gannon theater.
Conor Grey, a senior biology pre-med major, prepares to enter medical school and leave behind the world of undergraduate theater.
Grey said having Forum capstone his theater experience has been fitting.
“The cast is largely comprised of individuals with whom I’ve spent the majority of my theater experience here at Gannon,” Grey said. “It’s, in a way, a very full circle as I complete my Gannon experience with many of the individuals with whom I started it.”
In contrast to Grey, freshman theatre and communication arts major Tom Barton is just starting to plunge into the Gannon theater community.
Barton first appeared in “The Melancholy Play,” featured earlier this semester. Barton said he’s just looking for opportunities to grow as a performer.
“There were many talented actors who auditioned for ‘Forum,’” he said. “I saw this as an opportunity to work with and learn from other actors here, who have been around the Gannon and Erie theater community longer than I have.”
Both Grey and Barton agree it’s an amazing feeling to work on a show as old as “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
The show itself contains jokes that date back to 251 B.C. – which assigns actors and technical staff with the task of bringing alive a show that has been done in countless other theaters.
But Barton said putting a unique touch on an old show is one of his favorite parts of theater.
“It’s a really cool feeling,” Barton said. “It’s an opportunity to take a well-known show that people are going to understand, and put our own spin on it.”
Grey completely backs Barton’s statement.
“I’ve loved working in an environment with other individuals who understand and appreciate theater; it’s been a fun process so far,” Grey said. “I’m ready to start ditching the script and getting more into the character I’m playing.”
Grey, who has been one of the driving forces behind many events of Alpha Psi Omega, the honorary theater fraternity, and a constant supporter of the Schuster Theatre, said he believes that “Forum” is the perfect way to end another busy semester.
“‘Forum’ is simply a ridiculous show and after all the events that have happened in anticipation of the theater department’s trip to the International Collegiate Theatre Festival in Scotland, it’s nice to have a show with which we can wind down.” Grey said. “Speaking plot-wise, it’s very easy to follow and will make for a great crowd-pleaser.”
A crowd pleaser it certainly is. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” has had over 10 Broadway productions and won several Tony Awards, including “Best Music” and “Best Book.”
The raucous jokes of ancient Roman writer Plauts combined with the witty lyrics of Sondheim join to keep audiences laughing through the whole show.
Gannon’s unique cast of “Forum” has nursed the choreography and jokes in anticipation of audience laughter.
“To this point, watching the show progress has been a lot of fun,” Barton said. “We started our first rehearsal, and dove right into choreography, blocking, lines, etc. To see all of that coming together is really exciting.”
Grey said he is also looking forward to “Forum”’s opening.
“At the very least, it’s a great comedy and people will laugh continually during the course of the show,” Grey said. “Audiences can expect to see some of Gannon University’s best actors and actresses involved in a show that will be hilarious.”
While Barton continues slowly delving into the Schuster Theatre, Grey prepares to move on.
“When I first started theater here at Gannon, it was a whole new area of the arts I had never explored before,” Grey said. “It was great to realize that something like theater was an art form with many applications: art therapy, service learning, a vehicle for social change and community outreach – to name a few.”
Both Barton and Grey anxiously await the opening of “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum.”
The show runs at 8 p.m. April 24-26 and May 1-3 and at 2 p.m. May 4.