By Laura Nugent
Lighting the stage for “Rumors” has been a lesson in patience and comedic washing, painting the stage in an even bath of warm light that will illuminate the farce played out by the actors.
The set for this show is huge—it spans almost the entirety of the stage space in the Swirnow theater. Thirty lighting instruments that throw pools of light eight feet across are needed just to cover the floor and the balcony. Hanging each of those instruments so that they properly overlap without leaving any dark spots is an exercise in patience; correcting the focus of one light could require shifting the focus of several other lights.
“Rumors” is very unlike the Barnstormers’ last mainstage, “Legally Blonde,” which was essentially a series of special effects. Of course “Rumors” has a few special effects hidden up its sleeve, but lighting this show has been an opportunity to step back and perfect the basics of lighting: providing a three dimensional space made out of light in which actors can tell a story.
Thanks again to my lovely assistant Lizze and board op Brandon, and to volunteers and friends Julia, Victor, and Najwa for all of your hard work. It wouldn’t be possible without you!
Cooking With Cookie! featuring Dr. Ernie Cusack Today’s Theme: What Your Food Says About Your Mood!
By Brenda Quesada and Sebastian Durfee
Cookie: Hello there everyone and welcome back to “Cooking with Cookie”! I’m your cook, Cookie Cusack! What a tongue twister, right? Okay then! This week we’ll be focusing on… your mood with food! With a very special guest, Dr. Ernie Cusack!
Ernie: Hello everyone!
Cookie: How are you doing, sweetie pie?
Ernie: I’m doing well, honey.
Cookie: So, Ernie is an analyst at Bellevue hospital in New York City and, today, he is here to talk to us about what your food is saying about your mood!
Ernie: Thank you, Cookie. So, to get started, let’s say you’re craving some tough or crunchy foods--
Cookie: Tough foods are like steak or chicken: any meat products. And crunchy foods are like chips!
Ernie: Exactly, poops. Cravings for tough and crunchy foods like that mean you could be feeling angry!
Cookie: Angry like an animal!
Ernie: And if you’re in the mood for sugars, that mean that you’re possibly feeling depressed.
Cookie: So put down that candy bar and run over to Bellevue Hospital to get an appointment with Ernie!
Ernie: Heh, that’s very funny, sweetheart. Moving on… If you crave soft and sweet foods, such as ice cream, you could be feeling anxious at the moment.
Cookie: So be wary of sharing your ice cream with someone else!
Ernie: Cravings for salty foods could indicate feelings of stress.
Cookie: Keep those sodium levels low and under control!
Ernie: And last, but not least, if you desire any bulky food that will really fill you up--
Cookie: Like crackers or pasta!
Ernie: --You could be feeling lonely and sexually frustrated.
Cookie: Ernie doesn’t eat a lot of pasta.
Cookie: Because of your cholesterol, puppy! You’re so silly.
Cookie: Well, we hoped you enjoyed this week’s “Cooking with Cookie” with my special guest, Dr. Ernie Cusack! If you’re every in need of any mental health services, Ernie is the analyst for you!
Ernie: Thank you, Cookie! I had a lot of fun being on today’s show.
Cookie: Bye, everyone! Next week, on our extra long 2-hour episode, we’ll be learning how to make lemon tarts!
As a professional director and lifelong academic theatre artist, working on this production of Rumors for the JHU Barnstormers has been a wonderful learning experience as I launch the second act of my career. As a JHU CTY programs student and staffer between 1990-2000 in Carlisle, PA and Frederick, MD, actually setting foot on the Homewood campus here in Baltimore was a special first-time-ever homecoming. Directing in the Swirnow and working with these dedicated extracurricular, entrepreneurial, and smart-as-whips students on Neil Simon's hugely popular and challenging social farce has been pretty terrific. Except I'm never sure the stuff I say in rehearsal won't end up at the bottom of the rehearsal report! (I should be grateful people are listening.)
Speaking of that: as every day in our country brings new Wikileaks and accusations, rumors and questions, infidelities and tweets, grave offenses met with chuckles on both sides . . . my confidence grows in the Barnstormers for choosing the perfect comedy for our moment. The play debuted on Broadway with a starry cast in 1989. But like fine wine, great art gets better with age and when paired with the perfect occasion. With performances on offer over the final two weekends before an historic and divisive US election, Rumors is great art for us. Why? It's mix of hilarity and indictment becomes a mirror through which we see our silly mugs and our flailing limbs and our collective memory that human connection is our best redemption.
I love the work we've been up to and how everyone works together to make the art happen.
I am full of gratitude for the chance to do what I love to do with top students.
This is the play for today. Don't miss it. Please come share a laugh and think with us!
Jeffrey M. Cordell - Barnstormers guest director