Throw Back Thursday – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1986 & 2009)

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This week for Throw Back Thursday MVLCT is doubling up!  Very rarely have we done a show more than once, but there have been a few instances.  Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum produced in 1986 and then again in 2009 is one example.


FROM CHRIS CARPENTER (PSEUDOLUS 1986)

1986 is the year I finally gathered up my toys, left Mt Vernon and relocated to Iowa City, a move that was long overdue.

By then I had already established a tradition of spending my summer working on MVCT’s summer show, having been in every one since their first production in 1980. I wasn’t about to let a 20 mile drive prevent me from participating again, even though I did not own a car.

Luckily, my friend John Gaston was equally committed to performing summer theater in a damp un-airconditioned space in August. And he had a car.

Being cast as Pseudolus in Forum was like some crazy dream come true for me, and I was too young and stupid to be scared. When I performed the role again almost 30 years later I had the good sense to be properly terrified.

I’m not sure I can even convey how much I enjoyed being surrounded by all these people I loved, far from my horrific job, putting on a show.

I particularly enjoyed doing scenes with Walter Furman as Hysterium, who seemed to make it his goal to make me laugh on stage. Came pretty close to succeeding several times.

There is a scene in Forum where Pseudolus and Hysterium encounter  Erronius, a blind doddering old man, and scam him. Erronius was played by Hugh Lifson.

There was a piece of business in the scene where Erronius blindly walks to the edge of the stage and Pseudolus and Hysterium catch him before he can fall off of it. 

We had done the scene many times without incident until one night, in front of an audience, Professor Lifson, without telling anyone, made it his  goal to walk off the the edge of that stage, and he almost succeeded. 

We come to the moment were he would usually wander lackadaisically downstage, and instead he took off like a bat out of Hell.  Walter and I had to literally run to catch him before tumbled right off into the first row. 

Afterward, Hugh was delighted with what he did, and I guess he was right, It certainly upped the stakes in that scene. If the audience wanted to see a real moment of real panic, that’s what they got.

During the run of the show the board of directors was approached by officials from Cornell College who asked if we might be willing to perform the show again, a few months later, for Parent’s weekend, which we did.

It was a very unusual experience for me to be able to perform a show again, in the same space, with the same sets and costumes after such a long layoff. Unfortunately some of our cast were off to college in the fall, including all of our Proteans, and we had to recast.

It still amazes me how the new recruits were able to pick up the whole show after less than a week of rehearsals.

Sadly, my horrific job began to take over my life, and although I was able to do a few more shows in Cedar Rapids after Forum, by the summer of 1987 when I was promoted to a managerial position I had no time for theater.

Because of that horrific job I was unable to participate in an MVCT summer show for the first time ever.

I was away from the theater until 1992, which in retrospect was a a pretty bad trade-off.  Eventually I was able to come back to Mt. Vernon for a summer musical. But that’s a whole other story.


FROM JONATHAN NADOLNY (MILES GLORIOSUS, 2009)

I was involved at MVLCT during my time as a student at Cornell College.

Being someone who is from out of state, I felt it was important for me to be involved and experience the local community as well as get to know more people from the greater Mt Vernon area.

I was in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and I had a blast. I got to form bonds with some amazing and talented individuals in a safe, fun, and welcoming environment.

The level of professionalism and dedication to the craft of theatre was something I had only experienced at Cornell, so I was more then excited and happy to see such a commitment to giving the community a positive theatre experience.

Showcasing local artists who may not always get the chance to shine and experience live entertainment made my time there all the more special because I felt that it helped bond us as a whole.

I had received an out powering response to my involvement with the show and MVLCT wherever I went even beyond the summer.

The unending commitment to providing people with stellar entertainment and experiences is something that the actors, crew, directors, volunteers, and everyone involved should be commended for, and I will always cherish the time I got to spend with those amazing people.

We need the arts more then ever to help uplift us, escape, and also help deal with the issues that we face as a human race. I know that’s exactly what you’ll get out of the experience at MVLCT.


1986


2009


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