She Stoops to Conquer Western

English department fuses academics and performance

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Montage from She Stoops to Conquer

Western’s English department is set to conquer Talbot Theatre.

Tonight marks the debut of She Stoops to Conquer, a play written by Oliver Goldsmith and first performed in 1773. The play has since enjoyed lasting appeal, having been adapted into several films.

She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy of errors about Charles Marlow, a wealthy young man who is forced by his family to consider a bride whom he has never met. After a series of misunderstandings and amusing blunders, the tale is happily concluded " all within the span of a single evening.

“It’s a funny play that’s easy to cast. Unlike other Restoration plays, like Wycherley’s The Country Wife or Behn’s The Rover, which is a little bit darker and rather difficult to cast, She Stoops to Conquer makes for a great adaptation,” Joanne Devereux, professor and director, explains.

Perhaps the most enticing aspect of She Stoops to Conquer is it coincides with the English department’s new practical course in drama, English 141F. As Western does not have a drama department, this course is one of the few chances students have to perform, in addition to receiving academic credit.

“It’s a great step forward,” Darren Schmidt, who is enrolled in the course, says.

Schmidt is appearing in his twelfth production at Western and finds the university’s renewed interest in the performing arts refreshing.

Jen Fraser, a fourth-year English student, is also cast in She Stoops to Conquer and is enrolled in the course. She expresses delight for the class.

“Often students don’t get involved with major theatrical productions because of conflicts with other classes or work. To have this count as a credit is a huge incentive for students looking to become involved with the performing arts,” Fraser says.

Still, those who turn out are incredibly enthusiastic.

“When working with a cast of 11 or 12 students, the situation creates a terrific learning environment where everyone feeds off each other,” Devereux acknowledges. “There’s an overwhelming energy brought forth by everyone in terms of what they bring to their specific roles.”

The course provides an outstanding opportunity to improve one’s theatrical skills and foster those of others.

“There’s lots of diversity, and you try to help those around you as best you can whenever an opportunity presents itself,” Schmidt says. “You share as much knowledge and experience as possible.”

Aside from production, the program introduces students into the technical aspects of live arts, including lighting, props, and stage direction. Despite the early successes of the program, there are several underlying issues that need to be addressed.

“There really isn’t enough space to practise,” Devereux confesses. “Most of the time we’re scouring for empty classrooms to rehearse in.”

Though there may be a shortage of facilities, fellow drama students are patient with the program’s constraints.

“Ultimately, there needs to be a program and then you work towards the facilities. The program is new, and it’s great to see the English department taking this step forward, but it’s too early to expect anything in terms of facilities until the program really blossoms,” Schmidt explains.

She Stoops to Conquer runs from Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 1-3 at 8 p.m. in Talbot Theatre. Tickets are $5 in advance at the Talbot Theatre box office and $10 at the door.

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