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A Physicist, a Painter, and Elvis Walk into a Bar…

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A Physicist, a Painter, and Elvis Walk into a Bar…

Article written with the assistance of Jacqueline A. ’16, Ursuline Bear Facts

Albert Einstein presses firmly on his brown, suede fedora, preventing the cap from flying off his head as he dashes through the courtyard between the A and B hallways. He races ahead of other vivid characters, including Pablo Picasso, Elvis Presley, and other patrons of the Lapin Agile, a famous and historic tavern in Montmarte, France. Yet, Einstein died in 1955. So, how is it possible that he is running through the halls of a high school in Dallas?

In fact, Cameron Schutze ‘17, who portrayed the theoretical physicist in Jesuit Stage and Film’s production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, is sprinting towards the theater lobby, flinging open the door, and embracing his castmates and audience members following his first run of the play. Having recently portrayed the eccentric Mr. DePinna in You Can’t Take it With You, Shutze, describing this familiar moment of joy and nostalgia, recounted his emotions during this event, “I felt exhilarated that all the work I had put forth over the last several months had come to fruition, yet there was a tinge of sadness because the experience was almost over.”

DSC_3100In fact, the “work” that Schutze is referencing began in September, nearly three months before the premiere of the show. After nerve-wracking auditions, the cast of twenty-six students, most attending Jesuit College Preparatory and Ursuline Academy, assembles in a circle on the barren stage of the theater and begins to read Steve Martin’s comedic script for the first time. Joyful giggles fill the room as the cast members discover the humor of their characters, struggling to spit out their lines in between fits of laughter.

The show is Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a comedic tale about an evening in the early 1900s when Einstein (Cameron Schutze-Maxwell Schutze), Picasso (Carlos Cabre-Jack Matthews), and Elvis Presley (Carson Ward-Henry Ainsworth) meet in a French bar. The night contains hilarious disputes between Freddy, a bartender, Germaine, his outspoken girlfriend, Suzanne, a young Parisian woman, and Gaston, an outlandishly hilarious elderly man. Ridiculous characters such as Sagot the art dealer, and Schmendimen the inventor (accompanied by his dutiful assistants) also punctuate the evening. But before the cast members can share this eccentric story with an audience, inspiring infectious laughter, they must lay the foundation for the show.

First, the actors and actresses commenced blocking, a process in which virtually every second of every scene of the production is mapped-out. For the first time, they moved throughout the gradually growing set, weaving around students and faculty members as they construct floors, walls, and countertops. Under the direction of Mr. David Myers, each cast member not only learned their cues but also utilized their creativity to diverge from instruction, freely exploring both the stage and their character.

However, capturing, understanding, and exuding the personality quirks and emotions of another human being stand as no small feat, especially when a century separates the actors from the characters they portray. The cast members often struggled to develop their characterization. For example, Carlos Cabre ‘17 grappled with certain facets of Pablo Picasso’s personality, “Picasso’s confidence always came very naturally to me, but I had a hard time adjusting to his sincerity in the last third of the play.” Yet, with the guidance of Mr. Myers, who “kept telling [Cabre] to return to the character,” Cabre was able to “contemplate what Picasso would think, say, and do as the play progressed.” By the end of the rehearsal process, Cabre did not simply attempt to present a humorous caricature of the famous artist; he thought as Picasso thought, spoke as the painter spoke, and reacted as the visionary himself.

Furthermore, as the dress rehearsals came to a close, the cast members became their characters, not just acting as them. Molly M., a junior from Ursuline who previously stole the show as Ms. Welington in You Can’t Take it with You, commented on her experience moving beyond simple acting, saying, “You don’t really think about it.” When she reacts, she simply “goes along with it as [her] character.” Maxwell, as well as all her other castmates, performs with organic reactions and interactions, resulting in a natural and realistic performance in which the actors hardly notice the audience; they “are just talking to the other characters” on stage.

After months of grueling rehearsals, show week finally arrived. The cast attended its last rehearsal on the Wednesday before the show and as Friday evening playgoers poured into the theater, the cast members quietly paced, adjusted their costumes, and whispered their lines to themselves, occasionally staring out at familiar faces in the audience through the horizontal slits in the scenery walls.

When the stage lights went at the beginning of the show and the quiet murmur of the audience disappeared, Maxwell Schutze ‘19, a remarkable actor portraying Albert Einstein, took a deep breath, and stepped onto the stage, just as he has done hundreds of times before. Yet, he walked with a new and fresh energy, invigorated by the excited audience, viewing the play for the first time. The show went on without a hitch.

Meanwhile, backstage, actors and actresses quietly awaited their queues, silently whispering their castmates’ lines in unison with the onstage performers. Molly M. described the atmosphere backstage: “It’s really exhilarating when everyone is backstage with you, and they are all wishing you good luck. Everyone is just as excited for you as you are for yourself!”

This backstage silence abruptly ended with an uproar of laughter from the audience. Gabby P., an Ursuline junior who is a friend and fan of many onstage, attended all showings of the play and noticed how the actors and actresses reacted to the audience, and how the “crowd controls the room.” Brittany W. ‘16 agreed, sharing: “I would have to say I loved the energy of the show when we performed the best. It’s not really until a show goes in front of an audience that it really comes alive. When your audience is laughing and interacting with you, it’s a jolt of energy for the entire cast.”

Finally, after the cast members bow at the end of the show, they raced off the theater lobby and met their counterparts who had been cheering in the audience. Sharing photos, memories, and embraces, the cast members forged a family, a community that values and appreciates each and every member.

Although the production has ended, the raving reviews from audience members have not. Valerie V., a senior from Ursuline, returned after viewing the show once, saying, “Both casts did an amazing job – it was so worth it to see the two productions!” Junior Hayley H. summed up her experience at the amazing shows with a single word, “Wow!” However, the actors and actresses of Picasso at the Lapin Agile will grace the stage again in the fast approaching future. With the spring comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace, right around the corner, the family and friends of the Lapin Agile gang will not have to wait long to view another mesmerizingly, spectacular production.

Cast of Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Friday, November 13 & Saturday, November 21
Picasso – Jack Matthews
Einstein – Maxwell Schutze
Schmendimen – Spencer Grant
Assistant 1 – Matthew Cox
Assistant 2 – Liam Taylor
Germaine – Anna R.
Freddy – Gavin Loera
Countess – Molly M.
Female Admirer – Madison W.
Gaston – Jack Schwab
Sagot – Kieran Taylor
Suzanne – Brittany W.
Visitor – Carson Ward

Saturday, November 14 & Friday, November 20
Picasso – Carlos Cabre
Einstein – Cameron Schutze
Schmendimen – Sam Cormier
Assistant 1 – Nick Kissee
Assistant 2 – Cole Nelson
Germaine – Kaitlyn I.
Freddy – Joseph Duebner
Countess – Madison W.
Female Admirer – Molly M.
Gaston – Zach Feffer
Sagot – Nick Dart
Suzanne – Alexis F.
Visitor – Henry Ainsworth