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Blithe Spirit (Comedy)

By Noel Coward

Directed by John Tolley


 

May 2–3, 9–10, and 16–17 (2014)

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Menu:

 

Dinner Rolls with Butter
Broccoli Crunch Salad
Country Style Chicken Breast
Whipped Potatoes and Gravy
Petite Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas
Lemon Mousse

 

 

The smash comedy hit of the London and Broadway stages, this much-revived classic from the playwright of Private Lives offers up fussy, cantankerous novelist Charles Condomine, re-married but haunted (literally) by the ghost of his late first wife, the clever and insistent Elvira who is called up by a visiting "happy medium", one Madame Arcati. As the (worldly and un-) personalities clash, Charles' current wife Ruth is accidentally killed, "passes over", joins Elvira and the two "blithe spirits" haunt the hapless Charles into perpetuity.


 

Winner of the 2009 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Revival.


 

"Can still keep an audience in a state of tickled contentment" - Ben Brantley, The New York Times, 2009


 

"A world-class comedy" - TheatreMania.com, 2009


 

Produced through special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
 


Director's Notes
 

"The Timely Debut of Coward's "Blithe Spirit"

Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" has been an iconic comedy in the archives of English theater since it first premiered at the Opera House in Manchester, England in June 1941.  Within a month, the play described by Coward as an "improbable farce in three acts," had moved to the Piccadilly Theater in London.  And then at a speed that seems unbelievable today, "Blithe Spirit" had moved to Broadway in New York City and opened November 5, that same year.

But "Blithe Spirit" was born of more than the genius of the twentieth-century's most acclaimed writer of comedy.  The play opened in England at a time the British were suffering through the blitz of World War II, with the memory of the horrors of World War I fresh in their minds.  So many English families had lost loved ones in the two great wars and the cultural philosophies of western Europe in which the human race was evolving into a more enlightened, more compassionate and more sophisticated species where destroyed by weapons of mass destruction and genocide.  In efforts to reach beyond human limitations and communicate with loved ones who had become victims of these changes, interest in the after-life and the occult flourished.  Many people rushed to seances and sought out psychics as a way to calm their own fears about death and dying, and to tell those whom they loved who had "passed over," the term Elvira herself suggests, that love does indeed continue after separation and is eternal.

Leave it to the talent and skill of Noel Coward to take this cultural phenomenon of his time and find the broad humor in the desperate social search for assurance.  Since that first Broadway run of nearly 2000 performances, a record for its day, "Blythe Spirit" has had at least five revivals, one of which was the very popular musical version from 1964, "High Spirits."  It would seem, therefore, that even today our desire to understand what lies beyond this temporal life, and our innate ability to laugh at ourselves, affirm that "Blythe Spirit" still has much to say and has the power to hold up mirrors to our human foibles and make us smile.

So it is with this intriguing aesthetic history that Arena Dinner Theatre brings to you this  production of "Blythe Spirit."  With a humble heart I thank this amazingly talented cast who has worked harder and faster than any I have directed in recent years.  The Board of Trustees of Arena, its Managing Director Brian Wagner, and the corps of volunteers who build the set, manage the properties, set the lights and host the dinners define what the best of community theater is.  That is people who love the arts and dedicate their time and their skill to bring it to their hometowns, making those places reflective, enlightened and desirable locations to live.  Thank you, Fort Wayne, for your support of this theater particularly and the arts in general.  We are one of America's "most livable cities."   And I trust with this production of "Blithe Spirit" you will have another reason to understand why.  

 

 

Actor Bios

Molly McCray
as Elvira Condomine


Molly returns to the Arena stage after last appearing in "The Marriage Go 'Round". Other recent appearances at Arena include "Arsenic and Old Lace", "Tale of the Allergist's Wife" and "James Dean: The Boy from Fairmount".


Bob Ahlersmeyer
as Charles Condomine

Bob last appeared on stage in the wildly popular Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (The Candy Man) with the University of Saint Francis and FW Youtheatre this past March. He recently won three Anthony Awards for Best Lead Actor at the Civic Theatre for his roles in Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men (Lt. Kaffee) and The Farnsworth Invention (David Sarnoff), as well as the musical The Drowsy Chaperone (Man in Chair) last spring. Favorite roles include: The Producers (Leo Bloom) and The Full Monty (Ethan) at Civic Theatre; Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (Chris Keller) at IPFW; and at First Presbyterian Theater, Twilight of the Golds (David Gold), Bleacher Bums (Greg), and It’s a Wonderful Life (George Bailey).


Stephanie Vanderwall
as Ruth Condomine

Stephanie is very excited to be making her Arena Dinner Theatre debut with Blithe Spirit! She is also thrilled to get to work with the wonderful John Tolley once again. Her most recent stage credits include Chicago at Fort Wayne Civic Theatre and The Laramie Project at First Presbyterian Theatre.


Gloria Minnich
as Edith

Gloria Minnich is so excited and humbled to be appearing in her fourth show at Arena this season.  She was most recently seen in Laughing Stock, Same Time, Next Year, and Stepping Out.  Other credits at Arena include Almost, Maine, Plaza Suite, Any Wednesday, Crimes of the Heart, and Vanities, among others.  She hopes you enjoy the show!


Marsha Wallace
as Madame Arcati


 Marsha is making her first Arena appearance.  Her most recent prior role was as Maggie in Philip Colglazier’s original script, “Before I Wake” at Fort Wayne Civic Theatre.  In the more distant past, Marsha performed in many roles at First Presbyterian Theater.  Some of her favorites included Mommy in Edward Albee’s “American Dream”, Hecuba in Euripides’s “Trojan Women”, and Irene Malloy in “The Matchmaker”.


Deborah Dambra
as Violet Bradman

Deborah returns to the Arena Dinner Theatre after a ten year break.  She was last seen at Arena in the female version of The Odd Couple as Florence Unger.  This is her second time around in Blithe Spirit at Arena; she played Ruth Condomine previously.  She is thrilled to be back at Arena and working with John Tolley and other cast mates again.
 


John Tolley
 Director


John is delighted to be directing his first production at Arena Dinner Theatre, although he has been a supporter of this arts organization since 1974 when he came to Fort Wayne as Director of First Presbyterian Theater.  John has directed over one-hundred productions in his professional career, the last of which was "The Farnsworth Invention" for Fort Wayne Civic Theatre.  He left the city in 1990, and for the last fifteen years has been teaching in the area of arts and religion at Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago.


Carla Escosa
Stage Manager 

Having last stage managed ‘The Farnsworth Invention’ and ‘Timekeepers’ at the Civic Theatre and ‘The Laramie project at First Pres, Carla returns to Arena following many years’ absence.


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