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St. Vincent honors Schulz's memory with 'Charlie Brown'

| Friday, March 30, 2001

'You're a Good Man,
Charlie Brown'
  • 8:10 p.m. today, Saturday and April 6 and 7; 2:10 p.m. Wednesday and April 8.
  • Kennedy Hall, St. Vincent College, Latrobe.
  • $10; $8 for senior citizens.
  • (724) 537-8900.

  • St. Vincent Theatre director Joseph Reilly needed a musical with a beautiful score that could be staged by a small cast of students. Simple, but complex - just like the late Charles M. Schulz's 'Peanuts' comic strip. As fate would have it, 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown,' by Clark Gesner, was available.

    'I've always liked 'Peanuts.' It's very gentle and kind but still very honest about human shortcomings,' Reilly says. 'We didn't plan this production until after Charles Schulz's death last year, and that sort of brought it about. I haven't decided if we're going to put a memorial in the program. I don't think he'd want us to overdo it.'

    'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown,' which first opened off-Broadway in 1967, is a show Schulz knew and loved. He participated in the 1998 Broadway revival, which, for the first time, brought Sally into the cast.

    It will be the last student production for several St. Vincent College seniors: Robert J. Capanna (Schroeder), Mia Silvaggio (Peppermint Patty), Beth Troy (Lucy) and David Shaffer (Charlie Brown).

    'It's pretty sad,' says Capanna, who has appeared in four student productions at St. Vincent. 'I hate to leave, but I am going to continue acting. Right now, I had an audition for a show in Pittsburgh that I'll be hearing back from soon.'

    Silvaggio will be teaching at Derry Area High School, and Troy will be attending dental school at the University of Pittsburgh. This could be their last acting experiences. Shaffer will become an ordained deacon in the fall.

    'I'd like to continue in some capacity, but I don't know with all the work I'll be doing,' Troy says.

    For Reilly and the Rev. Tom Devereux, the show's producer, the student productions are losing three stalwart actors who always found time to work in St. Vincent's difficult musicals.

    'We knew we'd have a small cast when we auditioned for this show,' Reilly says. 'It's just different now. Most of the students who audition have jobs and so many other commitments. When I was a student and Father Tom was directing, this was pretty much the only thing you did if you wanted to be in the theater.'

    Still, the student theater has returning junior Dominic Atwater, who plays Snoopy. He has been in productions of 'Working' and 'Man of La Mancha' at St. Vincent.

    'It was different for sure,' he says. 'I've never played a dog before. The way it's written, Snoopy's very much like a human child. Just like the other kids.

    'It took me a little time to get used to his imagination, especially climbing on the doghouse as a World War I flying ace. I wasn't sure that thing was sturdy.'

    With their school and career obligations hanging over them, the cast has found a nice escape in the gentle world of 'Peanuts.'

    'We're used to having little time to do a lot of intensive rehearsing,' says Troy, who's also in the St. Vincent Singers. 'It's nice to be a kid for a change.'

    Jeff Yoders can be reached at jyoders@tribweb.com or (724) 838-5150.

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