By Antonia Spano
DeSales University hosts the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, also known as PSF, every summer, using the Labuda Center for Performing Arts and includes staff from the performance arts department. This year’s lineup of shows included “The Hounds of the Baskervilles,” “The Three Musketeers” and the festival’s namesake William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and “Troilus and Cressida.”
The festival always starts the season with a show stopping musical, this year’s being the Andrew Lloyd Webber historical hit “Evita,” the classic Lloyd Webber musical about the controversial first lady of Argentina in the mid 1940s. DeSales University alumna Dee Roscioli, ‘99, amazed the audience opening night in the title role of Eva Duarte de Peron. Roscioli’s rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” was on point as the audience believed in Eva’s love for her people. Dan Domenech controlled the show as the unreliable narrator Che, giving his opinion of Eva’s choices driven by her ambition to get to the top. Broadway veteran and opera singer Paulo Szot won the audience over like his character, Juan Peron, won the people of Argentina over.
Jim Helsinger directed Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s parody of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Adding to the hilarity, all sixteen characters are played by only three actors: Greg Wood, Carl Wallnau and DeSales alumnus Jacob Dresch, ‘11. Wallnau played the infamous Dr. Watson along with one other role, Wood played the discerning detective and five other characters, and Dresch played seven different roles throughout the show, including the Baskerville heirs. It was a perfect pick-me-up; everyone was leaning over laughing as the jokes kept coming.
Ken Ludwig’s “The Three Musketeers” and William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” played in repertory, meaning that they had the same main cast and set. This cast would sometimes be in two shows in one day.
Ian Merrill Peakes, Alexander Sovronsky and Zack Robidas,’06, played the legendary Athos, Aramis and Porthos (respectively) in the adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s novel with Sean Patrick Higgins portraying D’Artagnan, a new recruit to the king’s army that befriends the trio that despises the Cardinal Richelieu, portrayed by Paul Kiernan. Kelsey Rainwater played D’Artagnan’s love Constance Bonacieux. Stephanie Hodge, ‘18, played Sabine, D’Artagnan’s sister who also joins the fight and wins the audience over.
Robidas also starred in “As You Like It” opposite his wife, Marnie Schulenburg, ‘06, as Orlando and Rosalind, respectively. When Rosalind is banished from her uncle’s court, after meeting Orlando, she and her cousin Celia, played by Stella Baker, escape into the forest of Arden in disguise. Eventually they find Orlando, who unaware of who they actually are uses the help if the disguised Rosalind to woo his love with poetry that he placed on trees. In the tradition of Shakespeare’s comedies, the two end up together, along with two other couples, and get married. “As You Like It” meets and exceeds everyone’s expectations of Shakespeare’s tradition.
Every year PSF puts on a production they call “Extreme Shakespeare” where they hire actors to come in days before they open, raid the costume shop and put together on of the Bard’s works without a director. They do this because it is believed to be similar to how theatre companies were run when Shakespeare was alive. This year the cast directed and performed “Troilus and Cressida,” a tale of two Trojans who fell in love during the Trojan War against the Greeks. Brandon J. Pierce and Mairin Lee play the lovers who have terrible timing as soon after they meet, Cressida is sent to the Greeks as a war prisoner. Ally Borgstrom, ‘17, played the infamous Helen of Troy, who started the war in the first place. The cast decided against showing the violence of war graphically and kept the scenes between lovers modest as the audience contained different ages. The choices of the cast made for an excellent production.