Beacon Features: A little bit of ‘Nunsense’

By Chris Hernandez
Contributing Writer

From Sept. 24-27, Family Weekend 2009 will be rocking the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University. Family Weekend is a time for the families of new students to experience the different aspects of campus life, from dining to athletics. It is also a time for alumni and students to get reconnected.

Some new installments this year include the Panera Bread Family Fun Walk/Run, Lil’ Sibs Campus Tour and Evening with the Arts, a time to reflect on the art of PBA students over some light refreshments.

Mixed in with these new events are some old favorites, such as the Murder Mystery Dinner and the State of the University Address. Another returning favorite is the Family Weekend play.

Following the success of such shows as “The Fantasticks,” “The Man of La Mancha” and “South Pacific,” this year’s musical, “Nunsense,” has a lot to live up to.

“Nunsense” tells the story of five nuns who throw a variety show fundraiser to pay for the funeral arrangements of 52 accidentally murdered nuns. Since its opening in 1985 in New York’s off-Broadway Cherry Lane theatre, “Nunsense” has spawned over 5,000 productions, six sequels and it has been used for TV movies.

Professor Don Butler is directing the PBA adaptation. He believes the play will be a lot of fun for the families who come out to see the shows. According to Butler, the past three productions have been heavy, and “Nunsense” is a departure to light heartedness.

The production elements of “Nunsense” are also a lot simpler than past productions. “When creating a show in a month, a simple production is more manageable,” Butler said. The show is being held at the Norton Museum of Art and will incorporate simple set pieces. The actresses will don traditional clerical attire.

The essence and flashiness of “Nunsense” is placed on the shoulders of five women: seniors Emily Wells, Sabrina Diaz and Kaela Antolino; junior Lauren Winters; and sophomore Catie Bonk.

The cast

For the first time in PBA history, the play is centered on only female leads.

The decision to cast the nuns was not an easy feat for Butler. “I could have cast this show three times, that’s how much female talent we have here,” he said.

“The ratio of women to men in theater here is outstanding,” Wells said.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that an air of tension, as Bonk describes it, was surrounding auditions. Antolino perceives the tension in a different way, saying, “There’s more pressure on women here to be on their A game because there are not a lot of opportunities to shine. When a girl prepares a piece, she is really serious about it.”

“In a way,” Wells said, “there was less pressure because we weren’t constantly comparing ourselves by who read with guys and why some didn’t.”

Since then, the ladies have been put through a rigorous rehearsal period having to learn tap as an ensemble, perfect head to chest to head voice arrangements and ventriloquist techniques.

“I was so excited about the part when I got it,” Antolino said, “but when summer was coming to an end, I thought, ‘Oh no, I have to learn to use a puppet, tap, and improv.’”

“It was a lot more challenging than I thought,” Winters said, “it involves a lot of heavy performing.” According to Bonk, a key component of acting is not being a performer, but, since the show is about throwing a variety show, the ladies have to be performers, something she is not used to. Emily’s biggest obstacle has been the comedy.

“How am I supposed to play a nun that thinks her jokes are funny yet in reality not think they are funny but hope the audience gets them and thinks they’re funny?” Wells said. “It’s just confusing.”

Actresses’ thoughts

Though the show’s main objective is to entertain, Butler hopes the show relays another message as well. To give the girls some insight into the world of nuns, Butler introduced them to an actual nun.

“I believe God calls us all to different things,” Winters said, “He will use us for his work. I think the play is about wanting to pursue other things but following God’s will.” Wells holds a similar opinion.
“I believe that it is our job to show the audience that these other career choices for these nuns were attainable yet they chose God.” According to Antolino, these girls still struggle but ultimately humble themselves. For her, the show has been a way of God putting His truth in her, something she has not experienced with past productions.

Family fun

With a show about crazy nuns and Wii competitions, it might seem easy to focus on the fun. However, according to Mary Jacobs, coordinator of Family Weekend and director of special projects and parent relations, Family Weekend has a double meaning. It is about fun with individual families and a way to welcome them to the PBA family while celebrating our “worldly and spiritual aspects.”

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