These St. Vincent history lessons come with a bite
Forget those dry and dusty lectures full of random names and obscure dates. There's a better way to learn your history.
The Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery at St. Vincent College will open its second History Dinner Theater season on Sept. 16 with “History ... Done Funny.”
The show will be presented by Owen Timoney and Kaylah Fitzgerald, also known as the Madcap Theater Company of Philadelphia.
“Madcap's two-person cast works at a breathless pace to perform their version of the founding of Philadelphia by William Penn, Paul Revere's famous ride, the deadly yellow fever epidemic, John Paul Jones wrestling and the infamous baby toss,” says gallery curator Lauren Churilla. “Betsy Ross, George Washington and other revolutionary legends get madcapped as well.”
“If you've ever seen ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)' or ‘Who's on First?' — that's what I aim for,” Timoney says. “It's two people talking, but we try to meld it so quickly that it sounds like one person talking.”
The pair has been performing the show for around 15 years, Timoney says, mostly at the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia.
“We have a lot of fun with it, and we hope the audience does, too,” he says.
The dinner theater's inaugural season featured all one-person shows, so “this will be something very different for us,” Churilla says.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the Sept. 16 show in the Fred M. Rogers Center on the Unity campus. Dinner will be served at 6:20, with Madcap taking the stage at 7 p.m.
Other offerings in the 2016-17 series include:
• “The Legend of Joe Magarac and Steel Heritage,” Nov. 11. Pittsburgh actor Tim Hartman will present the story of the apocryphal man of steel who came to be called the patron saint of steel workers. Hartman will tie the Magarac legend together with the story of Andrew Carnegie's Pittsburgh steel dynasty.
“He's a great storyteller, and he was recommended to us by one of our patrons,” Churilla says. Hartman has worked with Pittsburgh Public Theater and St. Vincent Summer Theatre and in movies such as “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.”
• “A Christmas Carol With Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk,” Dec. 9. Last year's theatergoers will remember Kruk's interpretation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Churilla says. Kruk will voice all the characters in Charles Dickens' holiday classic, with musical accompaniment. Based in New York's Hudson River Valley, Kruk performs on television and radio and at libraries, historic sites and festivals.
• “Clara Barton: Red Cross Angel,” March 31. In conjunction with Women's History Month and Red Cross Month, Mary Ann Jung will act out Barton's journey from Civil War nurse to America's first female federal government employee and ambassador. In 2002, Jung's portrayal earned top honors for a solo theatrical performance from the Maryland State Arts Council.
• “Always Free: A Juneteenth Celebration,” June 1. Oni Lasana will return to the Rogers Center with a continuation of the story of newly freed slave, 'Lias Mother. The Philadelphia storyteller's work is based on the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
“This show will be highly interactive,” Churilla says. “The show from last year was our smallest show, but it got the best feedback.”
The dinner theater is designed “for people to learn and have fun at the same time,” Churilla says. “I like to find shows that have a good amount of audience participation.”
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.