For this segment of 25 Seasons—25 Stories, we have chosen to provide a unique perspective on a few of the characters that have graced the stage of the Commonweal for the past 25 years. We all have beloved characters; actors play them, audience members experience them, and designers bring them to life with their efforts. This week, three people—one actor, one audience member, and one designer reveal the characters who have, for one reason or another, shone the brightest for them.
David Banner (Longtime Friend of the Commonweal)
I would select Adrienne Sweeney’s characterization of Sylvia. A close second is Stef Dickens’ Nora—both were outstanding performances. But I must give the nod to Adrienne; playing an animal is no small feat. Many times during the performance, both my wife Diane and I forgot that she was NOT a dog! To me, that is the melding of an actor into the role with perfection. Adrienne; you are outstanding!
I also enjoyed Eric Knutson (Bo Decker) in Bus Stop in 1999—he and the other actors got us hooked on the Commonweal that night. And Hal has done some amazing stuff; The Master Builder (Halvard Solness) comes to mind.
It is by and through performances such as these that allows the Commonweal to consistently produce high quality productions with variety and, yes, passion.
Janis Martin (Costume Designer for 43 Commonweal productions)
As a costume designer, my idea of character and costume become so intertwined that it’s difficult to speak about one without including the other. Each character is a favorite when I’m creating their visual appearance!
Most recently, it is Morgan, Angus and Miles from The Drawer Boy who live on for me well past the final performance. They are familiar, comfortable, and well-worn. Each man is seemingly simple on the surface but is, upon a closer look, complex and surprising. Am I talking about the characters or the costumes? Both! From Morgan’s tired, dirty work clothes to Angus’ habit of wearing the same thing everyday to Miles’ inappropriate clothing for the farm. As I got to know these characters, I realized that I had actually met their real-life counterparts.
Stef Dickens (Resident Ensemble Member)
Oh my girls…where do I start?
As an actor, I spend so much time studying, thinking about, and analyzing my characters and the things they say and the choices they make. To know them better, I always find something in them that also exists in me—and vice versa. Because of this, they inevitably end up becoming like dear friends and make lasting impressions on me.
A few of these wonderful women will stay with me forever – Jo March (Little Women): her loyalty, passion for life, and dedication to the power and importance of storytelling. Lotty (Enchanted April): with her positive outlook and belief of the good in everyone. And—most recently life-changing for me—Nora Helmer (A Doll’s House): with her inner strength, resilience, and the personal truth and self realization that accompany a higher consciousness and acceptance of one’s own self worth. I will forever be grateful for all the gifts these women have given me as they let me step into their shoes and lives for a time. And it is a good reminder to us all that there is always room in our hearts for another good friend.