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Rose-Hulman Students Relish the Applause on Hatfield Hall Stage

May 6, 2011

As the house lights came up on the final dress rehearsal, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Drama Club Director Bunny Nash gave the cast some last-minute instructions and a bit of advice. 

"Relish the time that you have to receive the applause," she says to the student actors, many of whom are graduating seniors.  The Drama Club's production of the comedy musical "The Drowsy Chaperone" will be the seniors' last performance opportunity to hear that applause.  The show will be presented Thursday, Friday and Saturday, starting at 7:30 p.m., in the Hatfield Hall Theater.

   Drowsy Chaperone-Dancing

Gotta Dance: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students showcase their dancing skills in the musical "The Drowsy Chaperone" on the Hatfield Hall Theater stage. (Photo Courtesy of Bill Forehand/Bill's Photos)

For Nash, part of the job involves casting students in roles which showcase their personalities and talents, and helping them create memorable characters.  "It's really tough for me when the students graduate and move on to start their careers because I have such fun working with them on productions," she says.  "Although I'm technically the director, I'm also the ultimate 'stage mom'," she adds.

"I've done two (shows) a year since I was a freshman," computer engineering senior Alice Forehand says of her Rose-Hulman Drama Club experience.  In this show, Forehand plays female lead Janet Van De Graaf, a celebrity chorus girl who is marrying the hapless son of an oil baron in this show-within-a-show.  "Janet is a very animated actress who is leaving a successful career to marry a man she just met," she says of her role, "She's very big, emotional and fun.

"I originally thought of myself as more of a dancer," explains Forehand, who began tap and ballet at the age of three.  But a drama camp experience in elementary school sparked a love of the theater arts, and she soon began acting in productions in her hometown of Rockville, Md.  "It's fun to be people not like yourself."

Forehand's decision to attend Rose-Hulman was sealed when she attended the drama club's spring musical while visiting the campus during her senior year in high school.  She has enjoyed the ability to express her talents on stage as well as in the classroom.  Following graduation, she will be joining the Peace Corps teaching either math or science.  "I had a really inspirational math teacher in high school who taught math in Kenya for the Peace Corps and he loved it.  I decided it was something I wanted to do, and I realized that if I was going to, now seemed like the best time," she says of her post-graduate plans.

Drowsy Chaperone-AirplaneScene   
Elaborate Sets: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Drama Club productions are known for their spectacular sets.  "The Drowsy Chaperone" is no exception with an airplane and other elaborate set designs complementing the excellent acting, singing and dancing talents on stage. (Photo Courtesy of Bill Forehand/Bill's Photos)  

I've done theater since my sophomore year of high school," explains electrical engineering senior Marc Pardee.  "This is quite a step up from high school," he notes of "The Drownsy Chaperone," which includes Jazz Age dance numbers, top hats and tails, a tap dance sequence, and a biplane prop which was custom-made for the show.

Pardee's character, Man in Chair, is the play's theater buff narrator, whose persnickety observations, mingled with a fond enthusiasm and clever quips punctuate the performance.  "You hear the static?" he asks as he begins to play the cast album of his favorite old-time musical, "I love that sound.  To me it's the sound of a time machine starting up."   Audience members soon find that they, too, have been transported by that audio time machine to a 1928 production of "The Drowsy Chaperone."

"What I like about the Man in Chair is that he captures a lot of how I view theater.  He gets really sucked into the show, and it doesn't matter how many times he's seen it or heard it," Pardee explains.  Upon graduation, the drama club president will be working for the U.S. Department of Defense.    

Alex Cochrane smiles when discussing his role as Aldolpho, the show's scene-stealing wannabe Latin lothario.  "He really plays himself up to be the Cassanova type character but in reality he's clumsy and loud," says the sophomore applied biology major from Bloomfield, Ind.

The gullible, unsuspecting Aldolpho is duped into attempting to seduce the bride in a plot to stop the wedding.

"I'm sure that you have heard the name Aldolpho," Cochrane's character belts as he strikes a flamboyant pose, "The ladies' man who wins acclaim, Aldolpho!" he sings with a flourish of his cape.  "With what the writers gave me," Cochrane says of his role, it's very easy for his comedic character to steal the scene.  "I kind of feel bad for the other people," he chuckles, because he does kind of get all the attention."

 Marc Pardee  Caroline Andersen  Alex Cochran  Alice Forehand

Rose-Hulman's Drama Club is more than just another extracurricular for its members and director.  "I do look to the drama club as a very good set of friends," Cochrane says, adding that it's "more of a family" than just a campus activity.

Nash adds: "Over the years, I've worked with numerous students who could have pursued a career in the arts.  They chose to come to Rose-Hulman because they knew that they would be able to get a first-class engineering and science education and be able to participate in the arts as a bonus."