By Steve Jones
10:50 AM EDT, October 31, 2012
Nigel Goldsborough is a normally a mild-mannered freshman at Loyola Blakefield High School.
But something strange happened to Goldsborough this month, and it's a good thing that his change in attitude is only temporary.
When the Loyola Blakefield Players decided to present "Frankenstein" for its fall production, Goldsborough became "The Creature." He's the only actor who can walk off the stage and not be recognized by the audience after the curtain comes down.
"It was really challenging," said Goldsborough, of Roland Park. "For the first two weeks (of rehearsals), I was working on lines. For the last two weeks, I worked on emotions and feelings. I found an incensed attitude in the character, and magnified it about 200 times. The mask changed the way that I had to view the character. Once I had the mask on, I had to become "The Creature," and I couldn't go back."
Getting Goldsborough in costume wasn't the only challenge for the production, which finishes its run this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2 and 3, with a pair of 7 p.m. performances at the theater inside Loyola Blakefield's Mary Creghan Library.
Most stage sets take a while to assemble, and the crew needed more than 100 hours to finish the "Frankenstein" configuration. For nearly a month, the actors rehearsed for up to two-and-a-half hours a day. In addition, the daunting technical aspect of the Mary Shelley classic produced a few harried moments for director and scene designer Christian Garretson.
"I think doing horror is fun," said Garretson, Loyola Blakefield's theater director and a drama teacher at the school. "I had this play in my mind for a while, but every time I looked at it I thought it was impossible. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to build the laboratory. There are 75 sound cues in the show, numerous scene changes, a projectionist and a light designer, and all of that had to work together. There was just so much that we had to figure out."
"Mr. G. is very passionate about what he does," said senior Matt LaRoche, who plays Lionel Mueller. "His specialty is stage design and direction, but he gives you very good character notes and helps the actors train themselves to think through the logic of what they have to do."
The choice of "Frankenstein" is a departure for Garretson and his charges. In recent years, Loyola Blakefield has produced plays such as Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," "Children of Eden," "The Grapes of Wrath," and "1776". But the group was ready for a change of pace this fall.
"With this play, the technicality and physicality is such a big part of it," said senior Lucas Iverson, a Catonsville resident who plays Henry Clerval. "Just moving around on stage was a whole new dimension."
The production is not limited to students at the sprawling school on Charles Street. "Frankenstein" contains several female roles, which are filled by students from nearby Notre Dame Preparatory School and Maryvale Preparatory School.
"The girls want to come and audition, and the boys are already here," said Garretson. "It's really a great mix."
Stage veteran Nancy Padden plays the role of Elizabeth Lavenza, who is destined to be the bride of lead character Victor Frankenstein. Loyola Blakefield is like a second home for Padden.
"I've always felt welcome here," said the Cockeysville resident, a senior at Notre Dame Preparatory whose freshman-year appearance in "The Grapes of Wrath" started her career with the Loyola Blakefield Players. "I can't do any other after-school activities (at NDP), and it's a challenge. But it's so rewarding. I really love theater."
Padden, who is one of six children in her family to appear in a Loyola Blakefield production, is joined on stage by NDP classmate and fellow carpooler Charlotte Scheper ,of Cockeysville, who plays Frau Mueller in the play.
"At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to do this play because of all the college applications being due," Scheper said. "But I love Loyola shows. This is where I've met all of my best friends, so thought it would be nice to wrap up my high school career at the same place where I started theater."
Marena Gloth, who hails from Finksburg, is a freshman at Maryvale but hardly new to the stage.
"When I was very young, I always did plays with my grandparents," said Gloth, who is in her ninth play overall but first at Loyola Blakefield. "I'd done a couple of plays at Maryvale, and I just wanted to try another school. The cast helped me to understand my role, and I became a much better actor from this experience."
While more than half of the cast are underclassmen, this is the final fall production for Tim Neil, who plays the lead role of Victor Frankenstein. The senior from Baltimore's Hamilton neighborhood is more than satisfied that he took the theatrical route in high school.
"I've always loved performing, starting with elementary-school Christmas pageants," said Neil, who started acting in his freshman year and hopes to continue in college. "Doing "Frankenstein" is a cool way to culminate my years here."
The Players were well-received by an appreciative audience at a preview performance on Thursday, Oct. 25. The theater was filled with students from Towson's Ridge Ruxton School, the Odyssey School, Canton's Friendship Collegiate Academy, and St. Ignatius Academy in Baltimore. Drew Koloup, a junior who played Peter Schmidt, actually felt more comfortable performing in front of his peers.
"With the younger audience, you don't have worry about trying to impress anyone," said Koloup, a resident of Phoenix. "That works better than if you're trying too hard."
The timing of his visit to Loyola Blakefield couldn't have been better for Odyssey student Blake Hill.
"I'm reading the book right now in class," Hill said. "The play is a little different. The blind man (DeLacey) actually has a family in the book."
Students at the five-year old Friendship Collegiate Academy will also read "Frankenstein" in the spring. Lauren Greber, a teacher at Friendship, thought her students would benefit from seeing a live performance of the play before reading the book.
"We have an ongoing partnership with Loyola Blakefield, and our students have come here several times," said Greber. "This work is a part of the 12th-grade curriculum, but we wanted to give students of all grades exposure to this play. I'm hoping that these students will bring the excitement of the play back to school, and share it with the students that weren't able to come today."
Thomas Hall, a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy, hadn't been exposed to "Frankenstein" before last week.
"I've never seen the movie, but it's a great time to see the play," Hall said. "We'll eventually be reading the book and probably act it out. I could be a good Frankenstein, because I have his roar."
While the actors admitted that "Frankenstein" was an ambitious production, they clearly enjoyed being a part of the play.
"I don't have a specific preference for the roles I play," said LaRoche, a senior who has also worked with D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre. "I have a preference for the people that I work with. We knew that this play was going to be a lot of work, so we buckled down more than we had to. But we still had some wild and raucous fun."
For Neil, the preparation for the show was worth the effort.
"It's definitely a lot to undertake," he said. "There's a lot of practice, and many late nights. Sleep has been on the back burner lately. But it's been a blast. Every single person I've worked with has become like my own family. Working on a show together is a defining experience."
"Frankenstein" continues at Loyola Blakefield Campus, 500 Chestnut Ave., Towson, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2, and 3, 7 p.m. $10 general and $5 for students. 443-841-3224..
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