St. Paul schools beat: No school is no fun as curtain time nears

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 9, 2014 - 5:49 PM

 

The onslaught of cold weather that prompted school closings this week has put new pressure on tight rehearsal schedules at the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (SPCPA).

As such, many kids at the downtown charter school were not happy about their unplanned two-day break.

The SPCPA students are in their J-term, which frees them from daily coursework but tosses them into arts performance projects that include staging “Hairspray” and “Fiddler on the Roof” — within just 13 days.

For Eli Newell, 18, a senior who is to play Tevye in “Fiddler,” the lost rehearsal time has meant leaning heavily on a mantra being shared by director Genevieve Bennett and her cast: “Trust, love and a sense of humor will allow you to create art in the face of terror.”

Newell would have cause to be nervous. He’ll be onstage for all but a few scenes and is playing a “pretty iconic role,” too, he said. You almost hate to mention that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the musical’s Broadway debut.

But “Fiddler on the Roof” is no one-man show, it’s an ensemble piece, Newell said. Together, cast members must convince the audience that they are a “community” — in this case, a village holding onto tradition while threatened by outside forces.

When rehearsals began, Bennett had activities planned to the half-hour. Now, as the cast sets out to create a full-scale production in less time, it is working through its stresses with the trust, love and humor mantra, borrowed from American theater director and Prof. Anne Bogart.

“We’re staying very calm here at ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ ” Newell reported Wednesday. “We’re doing our best to pull everything together.”

His prediction: The finished product will be just as good as if there’d been no disruption at all.

Performances are set for Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m., at E.M. Pearson Theatre, 312 N. Hamline Av., St. Paul.

 

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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