Marjorie Lyons Playhouse and Hurley School of Music collaborate to bring "Susannah" to Centenary
SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary's Marjorie Lyons Playhouse and the Hurley School of Music have collaborated on musical productions for the past two years, but this spring's offering, Carlisle Floyd's 1956 opera Susannah, marks the first operatic joint venture for the two. Susannah will run for two performances only at Marjorie Lyons, with opening night on Thursday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. and a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday, April 16.
Directed by Hurley School of Music Artist-in-Residence Twyla Robinson with production design by Professor of Theatre Don Hooper, Susannah will also feature an orchestra composed of members of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kermit Poling. The music combines Appalachian folk melodies with traditional Protestant hymns and classical music.
An adaptation of the Apocryphal tale of Susannah and the Elders, Floyd's opera focuses on 18-year-old Susannah Polk, an innocent girl who is targeted as a sinner in the small mountain town of New Hope Valley, Tennessee. There is speculation that the opera was inspired by McCarthyism, a period of intense fear of communism in America during the early 1950s. Susannah also contains many feminist themes that had not been widely explored in popular culture at the time of the opera’s writing.
Centenary students make up the entire cast and crew for Susannah, with seniors Mary Ellen Kidd and Rebecca Vacha appearing in the title role.
"Susannah is a character who is not hard to relate to," says Kidd. "I think we all can remember a time in our lives when we were blissfully going about life with not a care in the world, and then everything turned sour. I connect with Susannah by focusing on her relationships, particularly her relationship with Little Bat. She is the only one in the valley who is kind to him, the only one he can talk to, the only one with whom Susannah can share all of her crazy thoughts and dreams."
Junior Aiden Poling is playing the role of "Little Bat," generally regarded as the most difficult in the opera.
"Little Bat has been an incredible learning experience for me on a number of levels," says Poling. "The part has certainly stretched me vocally – Carlisle Floyd wrote Little Bat's music to reflect that he is going through puberty, so his notes bounce all over the place. However, I have found most of my struggles with this character have been in understanding him and his motivations from a dramatic stand-point. Little Bat is treated as an ingrate by the rest of his community because he is unable to express himself."
Centenary's production of Susannah continues the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse season theme of Why, Unto Others? by exploring how ostracization ruins lives. The 2015-2016 season schedule has used this unifying theme to examine different facets of human relationships, with a special emphasis on some of the darker aspects of this interaction.
The performances are made possible by arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher and copyright owner.