Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Under the guidance of guest director Laura Johnson Lafayette College Theater will stage George Bernard Shaw’s classic comedy Major Barbara at 8 p.m., October 25-28 at the Williams Center for the Arts.

Tickets cost $6 for the public and $2 for students. They may be ordered by calling the Williams Center box office, (610) 330-5009.

Johnson is both director and dialect coach. She first worked with Lafayette students when she directed Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author in spring 1999. “The Lafayette students have been a joy to work with,” she says. “I find the student cast of Major Barbara as bright and enthusiastic as I remember from my last experience. Five of the members of the Major Barbara cast were in the Pirandello play. They are willing to try, to experiment, and to offer their own ideas in a constructive way to the collaborative process.”

Assistant directors are first-year student Christopher David of Sandy Hook, Conn., who is also stage manager, and juniors Andrew Bostian of Seekonk, Mass., and Kimberly Corbett of Clifton, N.J. Lighting design is by Vicki Neal and scenery is by Richard A. Kendrick. Costumes are by D. Polly Kendrick, Parrott Designs. Sound is by Timothy Frey.

Shaw’s comedy, first presented in 1905, has become a classic of the modern theater. The (now estranged) marriage of Lady Britomart and Andrew Undershaft, a millionaire armaments manufacturer, has produced three children, one of whom, Barbara, has forsaken her wealth to save souls in the Salvation Army. She is pursued by Adolphus Cusins, an idealistic professor of Greek with a gift for poetry. Undershaft, who has adopted money as his religion, battles the Salvation Army for his daughter’s allegiance.

“In the loving, death-industry partnership of millionaire, savior of souls, and scholar-poet, Shaw poses probing questions about the function of poverty in society,” notes Michael O’Neill, Lafayette College’s director of theater. “As Shaw writes in his preface to the play, ‘The greatest of our evils and the worst of our crimes is poverty. . . . Our first duty, to which every other consideration should be sacrificed, is not to be poor.’ An economic system that makes charity necessary is repellent, but should we admire or condemn do-gooders like Barbara? Could her father, who believes that profit made by selling weapons to all nations without discretion is the first step in eradicating poverty, be right? Can Cusins combine intellect with poetic sensibility to shape a new social order? Such are some of the great issues Shaw examines in sharp debate and witty dialogue throughout Major Barbara, a true comedy of ideas that is as relevant today as it was almost one hundred years ago.”

“The play is even funnier and deeper as we get it on its feet than it first appears on the page,” says Johnson. “It is the usual talky debate of Shavian ideas, but has more immediacy and relevance than one might expect of a 1905 ‘period piece’ and is chock full of well-drawn, wonderfully quirky characters. The strong female characters are particularly interesting to me.”

This is Kim Corbett’s 11th College Theater production as sound operator, light board operator, properties master, and/or stage manager. She has also worked with Lafayette’s Marquis Players’ annual musical productions for charity for three years and has assisted with technical aspects of many professional performances at the Williams Center. Most recently, she ran backstage effects for Philadelphia dancer-choreographer Rennie Harris’ presentation of the “hip-hop opera” Rome and Jewels October 2-3. She is currently working on the set design for Lafayette College Theater’s production of The Nativity on November 29-30 and December 1-2.

In addition to providing directing assistance in Major Barbara, Corbett plays Mrs. Baines, a commissioner for the Salvation Army.

“Though I have performed a monologue with Played Out, the peer theater group, I think of Mrs. Baines as my first official role on stage,” she says. “Though it is her goal to bring Christianity to the poor people of the streets, she understands that it is only through money that she can do this, and as a result, focuses her attention in the play on trying to get a donation from Mr. Undershaft,” says Corbett. “What I find most interesting about the role is that she seems to have two natures, she is stern and commanding, but also naive and soft-hearted.

“As with every production, I enjoy working with the people,” Corbett adds. “Lafayette has given me the opportunity to work side-by-side with fellow students of various theater backgrounds, as well as professionals. I think Richard Kendrick’s set design is particularly interesting for this production. Without giving anything away, the basic idea is that the first two acts are very tall and vertical, while the last act, whose ideas are in contrast to the rest of the play, is horizontal and massive. I find that working so closely with designers teaches me so much about both design and play interpretation.”

Fellow assistant director Bostian most enjoys portraying Peter Shirley because of his lower-class British accent and physical posture as an old laborer kicked out of the work force. “Peter Shirley is a very dynamic character,” he explains. “One moment he is down in the dumps because he has lost his job to a young person that can do it no better than himself, and the next minute he is standing up for his beliefs in a fierce manner. I think the playwright does a terrific job of showing that even though Shirley is of the working class, he is a very intelligent person and he won’t let anyone walk all over him. This production is very appropriate for Lafayette College because a majority of the students here are from an upper middle class background and they will get to see the comparisons of the working class and the upper class in this play.”

Mastering authentic British accents has been a major goal for the cast. “Making sure not everybody sounds like they are from the same class has been a challenge,” says Bostian, who appeared as steel worker Mike LeFevre in last fall’s College Theater production of Working, which was selected to participate in the 32nd annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, recognizing the finest work produced in university and college theater programs nationally.

“We have had extra rehearsals dedicated to capturing the life of the play in order to make it as realistic as possible,” Bostian says. “Going from a New England accent to a true English accent has been a test.”

Dwayne Thomas, a senior from Brooklyn, plays Andrew Undershaft. Thomas sees his character as the representation of the self-made man. “He was poor once before, so he is one of those people who appreciates his current status as a millionaire. He is also extremely sure of himself and his ability to get anything that he wants.

Thomas last appeared to Lafayette audiences in Working, where he played Al Calinda (Loving Al) and Booker. “What I like about doing Major Barbara is the same thing I like about all plays at Lafayette: the fact that you can take a group of people from very different backgrounds and interests and put something together on stage,” he says.

Adolphus Cusins is played by Terrence Monte, a sophomore from Valhalla, N.Y. It’s not an easy role, he says.

“The character has a very quick wit and subtle humor, which takes a lot of practice to do correctly,” he says. “Cusins continually challenges Undershaft on issues of morals, while at the same time, he is fascinated by the difference of opinion between the two equivalent personalities. ‘Equivalent’ is the key word. Although Cusins seems mild, timid, and ineffectual — as he himself puts it in the second act — he is indeed capable of getting what he wants, even from the ever-powerful Undershaft. The trick is making the audience believe it.”

Last year, Monte participated in Lafayette College Theater productions of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and By the Skin of Our Teeth, as well as student one-act performances of Pitching to the Star and English Made Simple. Major Barbara is perhaps most challenging of all, he feels.

“The characterization alone takes up 30 to 40 percent of my time, not to mention the accent training, blocking, and table work we have to go through,” he says. “It’s a tough play for college students to do, but I think we are going to put on a fabulous show. “

For Monte, the most interesting aspect of the production is the use of scenery. “The huge cannon at the end of the third act has a large stage presence and may take up the attention of the audience if we aren’t careful,” he explains. “Furthermore, the fourth wall is never broken, but the audience is alluded to several times, albeit subtly. en the cannon is alluded to, and represents Undershaft himself: large foreboding, and powerful.”

Johnson has exacting standards as a director, notes Thomas. “She is very particular,” he says. “To most people, this way of directing might seem tedious, but if you want to put on a good show, that is what has to be done. You have to critique every minor detail so that the end result is near perfection.”

“Laura is a challenging director and sets high standards for the actors in her cast,” Bostian adds. “She has been really dedicated to making this production a meaningful and successful one.”


Andrew Undershaft — Dwayne Thomas ’01 (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Lady Britomart — Rachel Korpanty ’04 (Summerville, S.C.)
Stephen Undershaft — Andrew Platt ’01 (West Chester, Pa.)
Barbara Undershaft — Sandra Veresink ’02 (Easton, Pa.)
Sara Undershaft — Kimberly Enoch ’04 (Hatboro, Pa.)
Adolphus Cusins — Terrence Monte ’03 (Valhalla, N.Y.)
Charles Lomax — Jonathan Pushman ’02 (Trenton, N.J.)
Morrison — David Campos ’01 (Rochester, N.Y.)
Rummy Mitchens — Liza Zitelli ’02 (Bergenfield, N.J.)
Snobby Price — Ricardo El-Darwish ’03 (Ferney-Voltaire, France)
Peter Shirley — Andrew Bostian ’02 (Seekonk, Mass.)
Bill Walker — W. Alex Walker ’03 (McLean, Va.)
Jenny Hill — Elizabeth Youngkin ’03 (Easton, Pa.)
Mrs. Baines — Kimberly Corbett ’01 (Clifton, N.J.)
Bilton — Andrew Bostian ’02 (Seekonk, Mass.)

Categorized in: News and Features