Performed on April 6, 7, and 8 in Oates Theater, Collegiate’s 2017 Upper School spring play, Lanford Wilson’s Book of Days, chronicles the small town of Dublin, Missouri as it is struck with an unexpected death. The passing of one of the play’s main characters rocks the community, and this event develops into the focus of the play. Directed by Upper School Theater Director Steve Perigard, the play centers around Dublin’s cheese plant, the local church, and a community theater, and it showcases how this tight-knit community’s members’ views are changed following the tragedy. The play is different from many others Collegiate has put on in the past, especially with a cast of only twelve. The presence of the majority or the entire cast on stage during the play presented another challenge for the cast. The small cast provided a more “intimate” environment, and “there was a strong bond between us that carried onstage,” as stated by Match writer and Collegiate Thespian Troupe president Bobbie Edmunds (‘17) in a letter in the play’s program.
Edmunds also was one of the play’s main characters; she took on the persona of Ruth Hoch, bookkeeper for the Dublin Cheese Plant and hopeful actress. Early in the play, Ruth lands a role as the star of St. Joan, a play being directed by Boyd Middleton and his assistant, Ginger Reed, played by Christopher Johnson (‘17) and Sonja Kapadia (‘17), respectively. Cheese plant owner Walt, played by Bo Little (‘17), suddenly dies in a hunting accident, or so Earl, played by John Fernandez (‘19), says. However, as soon as the dust begins to settle surrounding Walt’s death, Ruth senses something isn’t quite right. After being doubted by her friends and family, she launches an investigation of her own. Ruth solves the mystery and confronts James Bates, Walt’s son, and accuses him of masterminding the killing. Zach Bostic (‘18) plays James, whom he describes as “a driven person the more he realizes his potential, but often fails to notice how his own goals will impact others. Additionally, his drive surpasses his goodwill. It makes it easy for him to make decisions that can greatly damage or end other people’s lives for his own personal benefit.” James’ wife, LouAnn Bates (Olivia Laskin (‘17)) is a smart and determined woman. She is angry about her husband’s infidelity and talks with Reverend Bobby Groves, portrayed by Chandler Pettus (‘19), about her predicament.
Edmunds remarks, “there is an interesting parallel in the play, too, between Ruth and Joan of Arc (who she is playing at the theater) that I really enjoyed looking into. Joan is a character absolutely committed to her convictions, and that part of Ruth really evolves as the play unfolds.” Ruth was Avery Freeman’s (‘18) favorite character in the show, noting that “her character drove the mystery aspect of the plot.”
Another notable character is Ruth’s mother-in-law, Martha Hoch, portrayed by Caroline Campos (‘18). Martha is a frank and hilarious college professor with a close relationship with her son, Len, played by Michael Warker (‘17).
Book of Days was a production loved by many Collegiate students and teachers. Avery Freeman (‘18) thought it was “was phenomenal all around. The actors and actresses all handled the somewhat more sensitive/adult nature with such maturity, which allowed the audience to capture the emotions of each scene.” Hannah Feder (‘18) also enjoyed the play, remarking that she “was never bored” and that “the plot was super interesting.” Libbie Alexander (‘18) “especially loved the play this year because of all of the surprising plot twists.” She “was on the edge of [her] seat the whole time.”
The audience’s complete attention was captured by the dynamic actors and actresses and the growing suspense. Bostic notes that his “favorite AND least favorite part of being in Book of Days was the challenge. James was a difficult character to play because of the genuine malevolence in his soul. Playing a character that carries such a deep meaning of what ‘evil’ really means was fun yet scary undertaking.”
Olivia Laskin (‘17) remarked, “Book of Days is such an intricate and beautifully written play, and getting to be a part of such an amazing production was something really special. I think one of my favorite parts of this production was getting to watch as my fellow cast mates brought to life the incredibly powerful characters written by Lanford Wilson night after night. I can’t imagine a better play to end my senior year with.” Edmunds agrees; looking back, she remembers that despite the serious and sometimes sad subjects dealt with in the play, “having such a united group of excited and invested actors to work with made the experience everything I hoped it would be.” The spring play was an exciting conclusion to the Collegiate Players’ year and a great farewell to many talented seniors.
All photos by Taylor Dabney.