Tintypes Breaks Up the Stage
Although Tintypes, the musical opening tonight, has faced a number of obstacles, the production remains strong. One actor, sophomore Matthew Scarborough, dislocated his left kneecap and tore ligaments in a collision with actress sophomore Anne Cherry and a bench on the set in rehearsal Monday evening. Scarborough, who will play Theodore Roosevelt, was rushed to the hospital and given painkillers; he may need surgery and is currently confined to a wheelchair.
Scarborough was not the only cast member to experience physical difficulties. Cherry, who will play Anna Held, has had a persistent cough, worsened by the strain from singing. A number of medications have only slightly lessened her inhibitive symptoms.
Two weeks ago, sophomore Emily Tinawi, who will play Emma Goldman, tore cartilage in her knee and has been walking with the aid of crutches.
Scarborough’s unforeseen accident prompted last minute changes in order to accommodate the addition of a wheelchair.
Despite these problems, rapport among cast members has remained strong, and as Tinawi said, “I guess it’s good to expect the unexpected in theater. The show must go on.”
Director Beau Mahurin agrees. “Compared to some of my past shows, this has been a breeze,” he said.
Tintypes is a musical that chronicles the grand pageant of pre-World War I America, 1890-1917, presented with the exuberance and music of the day.
This nostalgic revue examines the transition from a time of ice cream socials and hoop skirts to a more technologically-advanced world, dominated by tycoons such as J. P. Morgan and Henry Ford. Social class struggles increased, as immigration began to alter the nation’s ethnic demographic.
The story brings to life five archetypes of the period.
“My character, Anna Held, was one of the most famous sex symbols of the era. She was also one of the first self-made female millionaires in the United States,” said Cherry.
Held, a beautiful music hall star, was also renowned for her tiny 18-inch waist.
“So, along with the corset, I have tried to put on the persona of a charming, calculating beauty who knew the tricks to make her way in a male-dominated world,” said Cherry.
Rosa Gadsden plays Susannah, a female black domestic loosely based on Bert Williams. Williams was a top vaudeville artist who worked in the Ziegfeld Follies, a show presented by Florenz Ziegfeld, husband of Held. As a first-generation African American born free in the United States, Susannah’s character eventually becomes fed up with being everyone’s servant.
In order to play a convincing Theodore Roosevelt, Scarborough “cut his ridiculously long hair.”
Scarborough also studied biographies of Roosevelt and drew inspiration from performances by other actors. One quote that he found helpful came from Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice. She said, “My father wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening.”
The musical demands that the production “effectively blend nostalgia with social and political satire,” Scarborough said. “The satiric edge of the show is what makes it so appealing to perform.”
Tinawi’s Goldman was an outspoken feminist and Socialist leader. Goldman’s life was marked with struggles after emigrating from what is now Lithuania. Her existence circled around a number of assassination conspiracies, one involving Henry Clay Frick and another resulting in an arrest for plotting the murder of President William McKinley.
“I try to think about what it would be like and the hardest work I have had to endure, and multiply it by ten,” said Tinawi.
Although Roosevelt and Goldman disagree with each other about the merits of capitalism, the two end up singing a tongue-in-cheek love duet.
Sophomore Richard Lawrence plays Charlie Chaplin as a Russian immigrant, also struggling to survive in the New World.
Because Tintypes is a historically-based production, Mahurin conducted significant research over the summer in order to make the performance more credible.
“I really wanted to make this a historical exploration as well as a theatrical spectacle,” he said.
Mahurin’s desire to be historically accurate was present in casting, trying to find actors who could physically represent the characters.
“I try to make an effort to choose those...who have the ability to be both versatile and flexible. There are always new talents who seem to appear from the blue and blow me away,” Mahurin said. “I believe if a person has the want and can prove they have what it takes, that person deserves a chance to hone and shine.”
This story illustrates a time of change and lets the audience dwell on songs that have been forgotten, such as “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” “El Capitan,” “Toyland” and “Yankee Doodle Boy.”
Songs included were not originally intended for the musical, and encompass works from Broadway and traveling minstrel shows.
“Ragtime, early blues, vaudeville pop — the mood and sounds have a life of their own, and it creates a kind of cross-cultural connection. This is the kind of timeless music that bridges generations,” said Mahurin.
Tintypes promises to be an entertaining production that is well worth
the expression “break a leg” in a very literal sense.