Wilkes University bridges the age gap in its upcoming production, “The Curious Savage” written by John Patrick.
After receiving a large inheritance from her late husband, Mrs. Ethel Savage is committed to a sanitarium by her greedy stepchildren who hope she will come to her senses and relinquish the considerable sum to them.
Meanwhile Mrs. Savage is introduced to a colorful cast of characters who open her eyes to the finer joys in life that make her realize money isn’t everything.
Janel Naro, 21 and a sophomore musical theater major, offers insight into how she created the character, Ethel Savage who is roughly 52 years old.
“With Mrs. Savage, it’s not as hard as you think, because she’s not really the old crippled person. She’s actually very energetic and bubbly. She’s a lot like someone who is younger.”
Naro explains that to bring Ethel Savage to life she drew upon her observations from the variety of people around her.
“We’re around older people all the time; our parents and elders,” Naro said. “So you get a little bit from that.”
She explains that getting into character is a process that occurs slowly over time, beginning with a basic idea as you read the script for the first time, but also from molding your character throughout rehearsal.
Finally, you discover what you might have missed with one glance in the mirror.
“Once you put on an older person’s make-up and you have the wig on, it’s a billion times easier,” Naro said. “Now I really feel like I’m much older. I just sort of embody the character because I feel the part more.”
Shaun Pierre, 19 and a sophomore theater arts major with a dual concentration in performing and directing, discovered there were a challenges to playing Samuel Savage who is in his 40s.
“It’s a lot harder to transcend the age gap than people think,” Pierre said. “They think you can just put on some make-up and play forty. But, the hardest part is that the older a character is the wiser they need to be internally. That age gap is something I cannot fully understand no matter how hard I try. I have not lived a life as they have. With Samuel his goals and his life experiences may have changed over time whereas I’m still starting off on that path. So I don’t have a full appreciation for age yet.”
Pierre looked to his older brother for inspiration while preparing to play Samuel Savage.
“He’s the middle child, like Samuel,” Pierre said. “He’s reserved and much more timid. So much of Samuel’s personality came from my brother.”
Pierre has even shaved his head for the role rather than coloring it gray or wearing a wig, which he explains isn’t something most college students would do for a play.
Also performing in “The Curious Savage” is Ashley Potkulski, a sophomore musical theater major, who plays Florence Williams, a delusional young woman with a motherly approach to her older counterparts.
As opposed to Pierre and Naro’s roles, Potkulski’s character is only five years older than herself, but finds an intriguing juxtaposition between Florence and the other characters.
“Florence believes she is a mother and carries a doll that she treats as her own son, but also acts like a mother figure to the other characters in the play,” Potkulski said.
She elaborates that she drew from her relationship with her own mother who was very protective and watched out for her throughout her life.
She also explains how complex it is to try to close the age gap no matter how big or small.
“The generational gap will always exist,” Potkulski said. “Younger people don’t have the same perspective of life as an older person does because the life experience is so vastly different, so I think it’s an incredible challenge to play a role like that simply because you have to put yourself in a mindset that you really aren’t naturally prepared for yet.”
Naomi Baker, associate professor of performing arts and the play’s director, explains the appeal of “The Curious Savage” as something really timeless and easily accessible no matter how old or young you are.
“I didn’t really know much about the play until about two years ago,” Baker said. “It’s a clean, lighthearted play that expresses mature themes in a very accessible way.”
Baker explained that these are some of the elements that drew her to the play in the first place and she feels that this is what attracts both new and returning audiences to the show.
“They play reaches everyone on many levels.”
“The Curious Savage” will be performing at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center at Wilkes University at 8 p.m. Sept. 26, 27, and 28 and at 2 p.m. Sept. 29.
For tickets, reservations and further information, contact the box office at 570-408-4540.