Alva Review-Courier -

'Arsenic and Old Lace' to share family secret at Northwestern


October 2, 2019

LEFT: Chris Chauncey, a crew member of the play, and Mickey Jordan, the director of the upcoming theatrical production "Arsenic and Old Lace," construct a wall for final rehearsals before the play debuts Oct. 3-4 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. RIGHT: Dena Walker is portraying one of the lead female characters, Martha Brewster, in the theatrical dark comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace" that will premiere Oct. 3-4 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. in the Herod Hall Auditorium of the Northwestern Alva campus.

"No family tree is without its nuts," explains Mickey Jordan, director of Northwestern Oklahoma State University's upcoming theatre production of "Arsenic and Old Lace."

Add a plethora of family secrets to that tree and one gets a real show that leaves spectators on the edge of their seats. This production will welcome students, faculty, staff and community to Herod Hall Auditorium Oct. 3-4 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 5 at 2 p.m.

Jordan, who just began serving the university as its director of technical theater this semester, said the first production of the school year has a lot to offer its audience.

"Basically, without giving too much away because there's a lot that happens in it, it's a show about family secrets," Jordan said. "It's very unassuming, but once it gets started it has twists and turns, and it's great. There's a murder, there's a wedding, there's a who-done-it aspect, there are Irish cops, convicts, Germans – it's really crazy. It's one of those shows that if you're not familiar with it, it's going to be a treat to watch it for the first time."

Jordan explained that the plot follows the Brewster family – a family consisting of two sweet old sisters who live in a large Victorian house with their three nephews – in 1940 Brooklyn, New York. The play shows events of their day-to-day life, which Jordan said is very natural and unassuming at first, but quickly turns into an in-depth plot of mystery, suspense and intrigue.

"The story itself is just super quirky," Dena Walker, associate professor of mathematics who is portraying one of those sisters in the role of Martha Brewster, said. "Anything with a title like 'Arsenic and Old Lace' makes you think, 'Well is arsenic even involved?' or is that just the writer's way of trying to get people into it, so there definitely are a lot of questions just about the title. Other parts of the play also get really fast and involving really fast, which just makes the audience ask more questions and makes it even more fun. I know people will enjoy it if they come out and see it."

Of course, such an involving production does not come without some long hours of work from the cast and crew months in advance.

"Arsenic and Old Lace" will be Jordan's capstone project in fulfillment of his master's degree requirements, which means that on top of his usual duties in the theater, he is in the full director's position of nearly every decision and aspect of the production as well.

"Before the show even starts, you spend about three months putting together a director's notebook," Jordan said. "That's where you put in all the blocking, how the characters are going to move, and the director has to do all of these character analyses to figure out the who, what, when, how and why of the characters. Then you have auditions to try to find who best fits in that role, then you have rehearsals and set-ups. It's very much like an iceberg because the production of what Northwestern and what the community sees really is just like the very tip of it then underneath the water there is so much that goes into it. We are so pleased that there are so many people that came out to audition and want to be involved in Northwestern theatre. It's very exciting; we're off to a good start this semester."

Although they didn't have to begin their work quite as early as Jordan, the 14 members of the cast have been rehearsing since Aug. 26 and have had journeys of their own.

One such journey is Walker's as she learns more about her character and how to portray her.

"She is about 65 years old... she's a classy lady, very Brooklyn 1940s so a very classy, elegant woman," Walker said describing her spinster character. "I'm excited to play somebody so much older. I'm an Oklahoma girl so I'm still trying to achieve the Brooklyn 1940s voice. Mickey gave me a couple of videos to watch to hear the voice and how it should move and sound like, so I've been watching those and then I've been practicing my lines after I hear those and see those, which has really helped."

Altus freshman Adria Lujan, who portrays Elaine Harper, said that although college theater has been a different experience from what she was used to in high school, she also has enjoyed the experience and production.

"I'm basically the love interest of the main character Mortimer Brewster," Lujan said. "She's the minister's daughter, so she's modest, but she has a little spunk to her I guess. They have a very cute romance going on that's fun to watch. It's not going to be sappy or over-the-top; it's just fun to see it. She's also kind of like a voice of reason throughout the play."

Lujan said that one of the main aspects she is working on to get into her character has been to constantly be mentally placing herself in her character's shoes.

"It's not been super difficult because they said they liked how I portray her, and they thought that I would fit the role very well. For me, though it's like I have to put myself ahead and in her shoes thinking what the character is going to do next and how she is going to respond. With the guidance of my director, he has shown me how I should really portray Elaine, and it's come to be really fun."


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