Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s Jacobian city comedy “The Roaring Girl” ages like a fine wine. From its 17th-century roots to its upcoming adaptation by the University of Dallas, its sharp wit and fully developed female protagonist have had the power to both enchant and shock audiences. Despite its age and applicability to the modern era, a major U.S. theater has yet to take it on. For Director Kyle Lemieux, however, “ ‘The Roaring Girl’ felt green right now.”
“I came across it last fall and felt called to give it a voice,” Lemieux said. “Sometimes you read a play, and it slaps you across the face and doesn’t let go.”
The play’s most striking element is its basis in the city life of 1610 London that also provides commentary on issues that have remained prevalent into today’s society. In the midst of the #MeToo movements and today’s social climate, the portrait of the city within “The Roaring Girl” will touch its 21st-century audience as much as its original.
“Middleton and Decker [are] suggesting that a city is at its best when its embracing all the plurality,” Lemieux said.
The story operates around the central figure of Moll, played by sophomore Ann Urbanski, who Lemieux describes as a “fully developed, three-dimensional woman.”
“She’s not just an embodied trope, or type or an idea of a woman,” Lemieux added. “In fact, some scholars argue that Moll is the first instance of a three-dimensional woman at center stage. Rather than conforming to these ideals of women that have been passed down, Moll forces the city to conform to her.”
“We’ve cut [the show] radically, but we’ve definitely maintained the largeness of the world and kept characters from each sect of the city in order to get this full portrait of the world around our 3-D Moll,” Lemieux said.
Behind the scenes of this dynamic masterpiece, senior drama major Rachel Van Pamel will be finishing her time at the UD as a record breaker: she has been the production stage manager for more mainstage productions than anyone before her, six times to be exact, acting as production stage manager every semester except her first semester and her Rome semester.
When asked about this achievement, Van Pamel said she was surprised.
“Maybe it’s because I’ve been really lucky while I’ve been here, that I’ve been the only one who wants to production stage manage,” Van Pamel said.
Van Pamel has been involved in theater since she was in the third grade but discovered stage management in her sophomore year of high school, when she was assistant stage manager for her high school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“I loved that experience so much,” Van Pamel said. “As soon as I realized that was an option, it was the option for me. I thought I was going to have to get a boring, real adult job, but I realized theater could be a career as well.”
“Usually this position is given to junior and seniors, but Rachel came to me as a freshman and was eager and ready to do it,” Lemieux said. “She has a maturity in her work that is rare for someone her age. Most people don’t realize how much work it is; it’s like being in the center of a cricket match with everyone playing different instruments around you, and, as the stage manager, you’re organizationally responsible for everything coming together smoothly. Once the show opens, it becomes the stage manager’s show; and moreover, they’re completely unseen.”
Van Pamel has shown her prowess as a stage manager by tackling a variety of shows during her time at UD:
“That kind of whiplash was really fun,” she said.
She began by “learning the ropes” on “Measure for Measure,” the first show she production stage managed. After going to Rome for a semester, she returned to work on “Hamlet,” a show she enjoyed for its “energized cast” and “community engagement” and the chance to work with designers from outside the university.
“The Cherry Orchard” brought the exciting challenge of a “non traditional process” and a non traditional space,” and “The Skin of Our Teeth” was a more modern, “technically heavy” show.
Concerning stage managers who will come after her, Van Pamel said that they should make sure they’re doing it for the art, not simply to hold a position of power.
“If your only motivation is that power, you’re not going to have a good time, because it’s a lot of payoff for a little time,” Van Pamel said. She also encourages them to evolve from show to show.
“Try to improve your work, but never settle,” she added.
It certainly goes without saying that Van Pamel did not settle in her time in the Drama Department. She has been instrumental in mounting many shows in the last four years, and she absolutely deserves many a round of applause.
Come see Van Pamel’s final invisible performance of “The Roaring Girl” at the Margaret Jonsson Theater from April 3-13.