P-R cast aims to give performance to remember

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 11:44 p.m.

English teacher John Dolphin predicts a powerful experience for audiences of “The Giver” at Pine-Richland High School.

“At the very end, I want them to just sit there quietly, and think, 'Wow. That's right. We need to act like that,” said Dolphin.

The play revisits the 1994 Newbery Award-winning children's book about a dreadful society that lives by “sameness.”

“I think the play gives a really good message — especially in our digital age where everything is so impersonal — that interpersonal communication and showing of emotion is a good thing,” Dolphin said.

Performances of “The Giver” are set for 4 p.m. Nov. 15; 7 p.m. Nov. 16; 1 p.m. Nov. 17; and 7 p.m. Nov. 17 in Pine-Richland High School Auditorium, 700 Warrendale Road, Pine.

“It's very fast-paced,” said Dolphin, 54, of Penn Township, Butler County. “Most of the scenes are short and quick.”

One main character — Jonas — is the intelligent boy chosen to receive people's memories of once-felt emotions, such as pain, joy and fear.

The Giver — another main character — is the aging, benevolent man who turns over the trove of remembrances to Jonas.

Senior Patrick Tobin plays Jonas. Senior Morgan McMaster plays The Giver.

“It's a futuristic kind of story,” Dolphin said about “The Giver” and the play's population of unfeeling folk.

“One individual in the community — the Giver — keeps all the memories for the community, to protect them from the pain and suffering of war and hunger and things like that — and the good things, as well,” Dolphin said.

When Jonas turns 12 — the age when young people get jobs in “The Giver” — Jonas became the next receiver of memories.

“Jonas and the Giver come to a realization that the community needs those memories, and we as individuals, need to be able to feel fear, and pain, and hunger and happiness to truly be alive and to exist,” said Dolphin.

Other cast members are Vince Karr as Father, Julie Junker as Mother, Abigail Jansen as Lily, Sebastian Pellegrini as Asher, Kirsten Beck as Fiona, Lauren Berlin as The Chief Elder and Marlee Ebbert as Rosemary.

Dolphin, sponsor of the International Thespian Society at Pine Richland High School, chose “The Giver” for production at the school.

“It's a book that kids in our district read in the seventh grade,” he said.

The show's cast began two-hour daily rehearsals in early September.

Broadway director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun of New York City, a 1978 graduate of Richland High School, attended the Nov. 9 rehearsal to offer tips.

“I just think it's very important to pay back,” said Calhoun, 52, director of the current Broadway production of the Disney musical “Newsies.”

“I just got so much out of my experience at Richland (High School),” Calhoun said. “It's the least I can do.”

Calhoun is the son of Robert and Joyce Calhoun of Guildford, Conn., formerly of Pine. His resume includes 17 Broadway shows and two Tony Award nominations.

As a freshman at Richland High School, Calhoun left Wednesday football practices early to attend tap dance classes, he said. As a senior, Calhoun directed the school's student production of “Godspell.”

“I either wanted to be a professional athlete or be in theater,” said Calhoun, who now sponsors a scholarship for Pine-Richland High School students who aspire to work in theater.

“It was the best place to grow up for a kid who aspired to be a Broadway director,” Calhoun said. “My band teacher, Mr. (Robert) Marshall, was a huge influence.”

Admission to the Nov. 15 performance of “The Giver” is free for senior citizens.

Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door for the other performances. For information on ticket sales, visit the online site for Pine-Richland School District at www.pinerichland.org.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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