St. Vincent Summer Theatre show offers more than entertainment
Rarely can a theatrical performance be described as a life-changing experience for its actors and audience. St. Vincent Summer Theatre will present just such a performance over the next several weeks when it stages “Tuesdays With Morrie,” a moving drama based on the best-selling memoir by Mitch Albom.
Filled with insight and punctuated with moments of humor, the play tells the true story of Albom's visits with his former college sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz. The visits begin 16 years after Albom's graduation, when the career-driven sports journalist learns that Schwartz, 78, is dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS. Their 14 weekly meetings change Albom's life by showing him what is truly important.
Schwartz advises Albom — and by extension, the audience — to live life to the fullest, to embrace relationships with others and put them first. “He's a man whose mission in life is to make other people realize their full humanity,” says actor Ron Siebert, who is cast as Schwartz.
Siebert has portrayed Schwartz once before and says that the play has affected his outlook on life. “It's a wonderful, wonderful play,” he says. “No matter what the conditions of your life are, you want to live every moment as fully as you can. You never learn that lesson enough or practice it enough.”
Director Greggory Brandt is excited to present this show, which was one of the first he chose as the new artistic director of St. Vincent Summer Theatre.
“It's really about the story,” he says. Throughout the course of the play, Schwartz's physical decline is a counterpoint to Albom's emotional growth. “We see a transformation with Mitch that's more mental than physical,” says Brandt. “There are still lessons to be learned, no matter what your age is. It's never too late.”
Daniel Krell, who is cast as Albom, enjoys his character's evolution throughout the play.
“In the beginning, he's a real tough cookie, a go-getter. He doesn't have time for emotion or love,” Krell says. “Through his dealings with Morrie, he learns that people should be the priority in life. It's about making people a priority, giving of yourself and making memories.”
Likewise, Krell says that portraying Albom has had a beneficial effect on him as a person. “Shows like this remind us how to lead our lives, how to be better human beings,” he says. “You don't just learn a lesson once and then be done with it. It's a constant work in progress, so we need shows like this to remind us how to be better humans.”
For Krell, telling the story of Mitch and Morrie goes beyond providing entertainment to audiences. “It has such an impact on people — profound, really,” he says. “I can't wait for people to experience it. You really get something from it. I can't wait to do that for the audience and give them the gift of this story.”
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.