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Ed Glazier wrote: I have appeared in Sorcerer twice, both times with the Stanford Savoyards, once as a chorus person and once as J.W. Wells himself. I found the show to be a lot of fun, though more so as Wells than as a chorus person, and in large measure, I must confess, because of my extremely pleasant colleagues. I enjoy the music and would probably rather appear in Sorcerer than in Pinafore, though that is possibly because it is less familiar. I particularly like the double chorus and the first act finale, especially the section from "Oh, marvellous illusion" to the end.
It was the director's idea that Wells would enter from the rear of the house down the long center aisle, performing tricks all the while, including producing flames from his fingers (ala the Devil, Mr. Applegate in Damn Yankees, perhaps). However, I was unable to operate the flame-shooting device, devised by our set designer, magic man, and factotum Neil Midkiff (a contributor to this list). I was able to convince the director that the long walk through the house unaccompanied by entrance music, etc. was far too long and boring. I tried to add a few of my own personal touches to the business for Wells. I am quite fond of props, so the speech in which Wells describes the company's products was accompanied by visual aids: except for the Abudah chest, which was a hinged box which was opened and snapped shut in Alexis's face, each product was represented by a drawing in black on a white poster board, approximately 18" x 24", held by Hercules until referred to.
My own personal favorite was the penny curse. I had drawn a hand with "thumbs down" on the card. For the Blessing, I simply turned the card to the "thumbs up" position. I guess you had to be there. For the incantation, I had purchased a pointed wizard's hat (fortunately, it was near Halloween) and cape with zodiacal symbols, both of which I donned during the introductory music.
The tea was brewed in a large coffee urn. This was partially filled with hot water. Suspended inside the urn hanging by a thread was a small net bag containing dry ice. The idea was that, at an appropriate moment in the music, the dry ice would be dropped into the hot water and the urn would begin to foam. The urn was on a rolling teacart, however, and during at least one performance, the cart was jarred as it was wheeled in and the dry ice dropped into the water a bit too soon, producing an excess of foam long before the spell had been cast. Ah, show business!
Wells presented his business card to Alexis upon his first entrance. During the 2nd act opening when Alexis and Aline are searching for their parents, I asked the director what Wells was supposed to do. He told me to improvise something, so I wandered about the stage with my stack of J.W.Wells business cards and slipped them into the hands and pockets of the sleeping citizenry. This always provoked a lot of laughter from the audience.
I have been a performer but have never formally directed, though I've done some of my own staging usually in self-defense. During rehearsals for Sorcerer, however, I had in my mind a vision of a particular bit of staging that I thought would be fun and the director allowed me to use it. During the teacup brindisi, cups of tea are handed all round, even to Wells, Alexis, and Aline, who accept them reluctantly. Between the 2 verses, in the brief wordless interlude, after the chorus response and before "See, see, they drink", Wells, Alexis, and Aline (timed to the music, of course) looked at each other, looked around to see if anyone was watching them, and then in unison, mimed tossing the contents of their teacups over their shoulders, and smiling sweetly.
I eagerly awaited the videotape of the show, particularly to see these two moments - Wells and his business cards, and the tea business. I was interested to see if the video of the tea business looked anything like the image I had seen of it in my mind. Wouldn't you know, of course, that neither of these moments is on the tape: the camera followed Sir Marmaduke away from center stage during the tea bit, and followed Alexis and Aline during the opening of Act II, since they were singing and Wells was only "acting"!
My other memory of the show was described weeks ago by Neil Midkiff in the discussions of Wells' descent to Ahrimanes. An opening appeared in the floor of the elevated gazebo which was center stage and I walked down the stairs until I could stoop and disappear. I spent the remainder of the show flat on my back on a blanket on the dusty floor. Neil thoughtfully provided a fan so I had some air, but my allergies had a field day. Nevertheless, the show was great fun to do.
Richard Freedman observed: I had a thought, during the Fall 1995 staging of The Sorcerer at MIT, that these characters should dump their tea into a handy pair of potted vines. Off-stage strings would be pulled, and the two vines would, in the words of Flanders and Swann (which inspired this vision) "touch tendrils, smile, and fall in love". That is, the two vines would intertwine. Alas, too many other emergencies had to be dealt with, and we were unable to implement this idea.
Harriet Meyer asked: Would any S'netters involved in the recent Hyde Park production care to share the director's specific reasons for the 1920s setting? What little I've heard is very interesting. (As mentioned, the class theme was put across well in this production.) Gwen Aubrey replied: The specific reason for the setting of the 1920's is that it was the end of the mental separation between city and country. After the 20's, newsreels and radio made the gulf much smaller. Even if Cyril the Slack-jawed had never been to London, he'd seen the newsreels of the Prince of Wales. The mis-matches were clearly defined between "City" people and "Country" people. One of our city boys was mismatched with the village matron, to great comic visual effect. One of the flappers mis-matched with the village idiot. The director wanted to emphasize the gulf between the two types, otherwise the mis-matching would not work, and the re-matching would make no sense. There was an attempt, throughout the first act, to have each group as scandalized as possible by the other group. And regarding accents, during the "Eh, but I du loike you", the country people largely had modified Cornish/Scottish accents, while the city folk degenerated into Cockney.
Page Created 16 August, 2011