Lend Me a Tenor won’t have to borrow laughs.
Ken Ludwig’s farcical comedy details a Cleveland opera house’s trials and mishaps as its employees prepare for opera legend Tito Merelli’s American debut.
According to junior Tyler Raehsler (Tito Merelli), the show provides its audience with “pure entertainment.”
“It’s nothing you have to think too deep about,” he said. “It’s really just humor and jokes. There’s no deeper message to take away from it.”
Since Lend Me a Tenor is lighter in tone, members of the student-run Augustana College Theatrical Society (ACTS) selected the show for theatrical balance.
“We wanted something very different from The Pillowman, earlier in our season,” said director Matt Stoffel. “This is much more lighthearted and fun, so it contrasts.”
By selecting Lend Me a Tenor, ACTS achieved its goal of producing a variety of genres according to cast members.
“Farce tends to have the higher theatrical elements,” said senior Katelynn Kenney (Maggie Saunders). “[It involves] a lot of running around and chase sequences, and the mistaken identity thing is big in farce. Comedy doesn’t always dwell on that.”
Raehsler agrees that farcical comedy accentuates certain elements, making the performance seem almost “cartoonish.”
“We’re allowed to cut loose completely,” Raehsler said. “There’s not really any limitations on how big or over the top we can go with it, so we’re running around everywhere. There’s a ton of yelling, and I’m sure I’ve gotten a few bruises from it. At the end of a scene, we’re all out of breath and covered in sweat.”
According to Kenney, in addition to its physical demands, the show challenges actors through its reliance on comedic moments.
“I’d say it’s difficult because it’s all about timing,” she said. “You’ve got to play everything off right, or you lose the humor. If you lose the humor, the momentum dies, because everyone expects to be able to laugh when seeing a comedy.”
Lend Me a Tenor’s rehearsal schedule provided yet another challenge for the cast. Auditions took place before Christmas break, but since Stoffel and several cast members were in the touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream over J-term, practices in January were staggered. J-term and spring breaks also interfered with the schedule. Despite scheduling difficulties, though, the cast feels well- prepared.
“I feel very comfortable with where we’re at in this production,” Kenney said. “I don’t feel rushed to the end, so it’s been enough time to cover our bases.”
According to Stoffel, the finished product is a show designed to entertain.
“It’s a really funny story, and these actors are good at telling it,” he said. “You get to escape into this world with these outrageous characters, and that’s just a lot of fun.”
ACTS’ production of Lend Me a Tenor debuts on Thursday, March 20 in the Mary Harum Hart acting studio, and it will run through Saturday, March 22. Showtime is 7:30 p.m., but since seating is limited in the acting studio, early arrival is advised. The house opens at 7 p.m. each night.