Where else have these actors performed and how did they become part of "Ruth Draper's Company of Characters?" How and why do actors even do what they do? How did Ruth Draper come to write and perform these scenes in the first place? And how did ELTC’s artistic director find out who owned the copyright for the work, and how did she proceed to get permission to produce the work?
Audience members have the opportunity to ask these and other questions of the talented cast and the artistic director, Gayle Stahlhuth, on Friday, June 22, immediately after seeing the award-winning Equity professional East Lynne Theater Company's production of "Ruth Draper's Company of Characters." Last season, Terry Teachout of "The Wall Street Journal" gave ELTC kudos for producing a rarely seen play by Rachel Crothers, "He and She," and now the company tackles the seldom seen scenes of Ruth Draper. In fact, ELTC is only the second Production Company to be given permission to perform her work in the past fifty-six years.
Eight of the sixty-some scenes Draper wrote and performed throughout the word are in "Ruth Draper’s Company of Characters." She died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 72 on December 29, 1956. Earlier that evening, she had received accolades for her performance on the Broadway stage.
The eight scenes involve a vast array of characters, not only the ones performed by the talented Karen Case Cook and SuzAnne Dawson, but over one hundred more are imagined in the course of the evening. Karen portrays a German governess with unruly students; a telephone switchboard operator with incoming and outgoing calls from strangers and family; an Irish cleaning woman in an office building; and a British aristocrat hosting a fundraising bazaar in a rural village. SuzAnne Dawson portrays a Manhattan socialite at a cocktail party; a Southerner who has glasses in every room but still can’t find the pair she needs; a newly-arrived immigrant looking for her husband; and an enthusiastic exercise teacher.
Karen Case Cook and SuzAnne Dawson have both played a variety of roles for ELTC and for other theaters in New York City, on the road, and in regional theaters. Artistic director Gayle Stahlhuth, who directed, has also performed in Manhattan and throughout the country, in plays and musicals written by others, as well as her own one-person shows. The Draper Company, who owns the rights to the scenes, gave permission for ELTC to produce the work because those involved are professionals with solid backgrounds.
"Ruth Draper's Company of Characters" runs through July 21 at The First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes Street, Cape May, where the company is in residence. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:30p.m., except there is no show on Wednesday, July 4, and an added show on Sunday, July 8. On Friday, July 13 is an ASL Performance.
Tickets are $30 for general admission; $25 for seniors and those with disabilities and their support companions; $15 for students; and anyone age twelve and under is free. Season tickets, four shows for $80, are available through June 30. For information and to make reservations, call 884-5898 or go online at www.eastlynnetheater.org.
Photos are of Karen Case Cook (floral scarf) and SuzAnne Dawson (purple scarf) in ELTC’s production of "Ruth Draper's Company of Characters." Photo Credit: Gayle Stahlhuth.