Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Inspiration Behind Bringing "David Copperfield" to the Stage

When Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa chooses the Teen Players spring show, many factors contribute to her decision. This time, she felt that her students would be able to meet the challenges presented by Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. The numbers tell the story…

Grace O'Brien, Jamie Ostmann, Guy McEleny and Kelsey Kato in rehearsal for David Copperfield.
  • When this season’s cast members step onstage, they’ll feel right at home. Thirteen of the 17 students have been in the program for several years and have appeared in numerous Players productions. It’s second nature to them now.

    Sixteen-year-old Jamie Ostmann began her acting life at South Coast Repertory with the Summer Acting Workshop in 2007. She has been in 12 Players shows, portraying a wide spectrum of characters, from Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the Literary Scholar in The Nightingale to four roles in Seussical—Who, Fish, Circus member and Hunch! According to Jamie, “Getting to be onstage portraying different characters with the same core of people (some of whom have be in shows together since elementary school) never gets boring. You always strive for new ways to challenge each other and discover together. Every show feels like a brand new experience.”

  • Many of the Players are performing in their final show. “This is both exciting and a little sad,” Hisa said. “Inevitably, our most experienced students will leave us someday. This year is unusual because we’re losing more than half of them. We’ll certainly miss these committed young actors, who contributed so much to the Players over the years. I felt this play was a great choice for their last show at SCR because they can relate to the story of David Copperfield, now that they’re growing up and moving on in the world.”

    Over the past six years, Kelsey Kato has appeared in seven productions. David Copperfield will be his last Teen Players show and, fittingly, he has been cast as David. “Playing David is like exploring a thorough example of how to approach the universal problems associated with coming of age,” Kelsey said. “My life influences my portrayal of the role as much as the role influences my life, particularly with David, whose conflicts and relationships so closely resemble my own.”

  • Another reason Takakuwa chose a Dickens play is because many of the students had a feeling for the author. “It just happens that 12 of the Players (including Jamie and Kelsey) have been in SCR’s annual holiday show, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol—more than any time in the past,” Hisa said. “Getting the opportunity to perform in A Christmas Carol along with adult professionals was a seminal experience for many of this year’s Players and continues to be one of their important emotional links to SCR. To get a chance to revisit Dickens’ world—with its deep and rich core of humanity—as now older and more experienced young people and actors has been a deeply personal and joyful reunion for them.”

  • Here’s another notable Players number: the stage version of David Copperfield has more than 30 characters—far fewer than the novel but enough to require many of the actors to double in their roles. “Portraying more than one character isn’t new to them,” Takakuwa said, “but I purposefully looked for variety. For each gentle character, I found the opposite, a stern, even vengeful person, so the actor would be challenged. With these Players I’m constantly look for new ways to challenge them.”

  • Ready for more numbers? In addition to their other roles, four of the girls also play boys at Davy’s school, Salem House. “Because the play has more male roles and we have more female students, this was bound to happen. It’s just another challenge—and one they’re used to!” Hisa said.

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