SCRANTON — In a theater tucked between businesses on Providence Road, a group of actors and actresses, many of whom hail from the Abingtons, meets to rehearse its upcoming production of George Benard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.”
Opening with an 8 p.m. performance on April 25 at the Providence Playhouse, the play is directed by Cathy Rist Strauch of Clinton Township.
It will continue with performances Friday through Sunday, April 26-28 and Thursday through Sunday, May 2-5. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. For reservations, call 570-342-9707 or email email@example.com.
Strauch has been a part of Actors Circle for 32 years and during that time has served on the board, acted, produced, assisted in costume design and set design and directed many performances. Nominated for NEPTA awards for acting and directing, she enjoys anything to do with theater.
“I’m excited about this production,” she said. “It is one of Shaw’s best known plays.”
“Pygmalion” was first performed in 1914, and gained popularity over the years. Some adaptations are well known, including the musical motion picture “My Fair Lady.”
“Pygmalion” tells the story of Professor Henry Higgins, a linguistic expert, who takes a bet that he can transform an awkward cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, into a refined young lady by polishing her manners and speech.
Strauch is co-producing the play with John McInerney of Clarks Summit, a retired University of Scranton professor and member of the International Shaw Society.
McInery has researched the origins of the play and studied Shaw extensively. He proved invaluable to Strauch and the cast with his knowledge of Shaw’s work and the characters in the play.
“‘Pygmalion,’ done in period, can be difficult, but it would be true to Shaw,” McInery said. “The audience may recognize dialogue from Pygmalion, as much of it was in the film ‘My Fair Lady.’ However, the two works are different. ‘My Fair Lady’ emphasized the relationship between Higgins and Eliza. But Shaw always insisted that Higgins and Eliza not get together. His play became about the emergence of Eliza and her development as a strong woman coming into her own. That’s what the play is really about.”
Professor Higgins is played by David Hunisch, a Clarks Summit resident and experienced actor who brings professionalism and experience to the cast.
Hunisch received a NEPTA award for best supporting actor in a comedy, for his role in ‘Leading Ladies.’ He also directed for Actors Circle in the past.
“The story of Pygmalion is well known,” said Hunisch. “Whenever you are doing something popular that has been done and interpreted in different ways, the challenge is to be true to the original. I want to be true to what Shaw wrote and not overly influenced by other sources.”
Emma Ross of Waverly Township plays the role of Eliza. She echoed Hunisch’s commitment to the integrity of the script.
“This play involves having an accent to be true to the period. I’ve worked on a London, rough, cockney, street accent. There is also a change to Eliza’s speech and transition to a proper Highbridge London accent. It was fun but challenging to develop that. It’s also interesting to work with the emotional part of Eliza’s character.
“Eliza comes from a poor background but she’s strong. She doesn’t take anything from anyone. She doesn’t have anything, but she doesn’t let it define her.”
Ross has been acting since age 9. Her first show, “Annie Jr.,” was performed at Abington Heights Middle School. She has acted in many productions since, but this is her first show with Actors Circle.
Carol Arena, the costume designer for “Pygmalion,” has worked in theater since 1996.
“I prefer time period productions, so this is exciting for me. I have some wonderful pieces I’m working on for ‘Pygmalion’,” she said. “When a character has the right costuming, they can own the role.”
Carol Davis of Clarks Summit plays the professor’s mother, Mrs. Higgins, a dream role for her. She has been involved in dancing, singing, choreography, costumes, lights and stage management for theater over the years.
“I love theater in all forms. I don’t care if I’m off stage or on,” Davis said. “This role is the best role I’ve ever had. I just love it and feel like I’m Mrs. Higgins when I step on the stage.”
She described Actors Circle as “a great group of people,” adding, “everyone is supportive. We have this theater family and they’ve become my family.”
David Hunisch (Professor Higgins), Mark Fryer (Col. Pickering), Emma Ross (Liza Doolittle), Dominick Azzarelli (Alfred Doolittle), Lorrie Loughney (Mrs. Pearce), Carol Davis (Mrs. Higgins), Katie Von Bergen (Mrs. Eynsford Hill), Maddie Giardina (Clara Hill), David Alejandro Smith (Freddy Hill) and Jeff Ginsberg (Nepommuck).
Also in the ensemble:
Bernard Ott, Jane Foy, Tricia Henning, Amanda VanBuskirk, Lisa Chokola, Linda Chavez, Corey Kelly and John McInerney.
Appearing as ballroom dancers:
Gehred and Jill Wetzel, Don Strasburger, Kathy Venee, John McInerney and Carol Davis.
Want to go?
Actors Circle’s production of “Pygmalion” by George Benard Shaw will be presented April 25-28 and May 2-5 at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road in Scranton. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. For reservations, call 570-342-9707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.