Summer Repertory Theatre brings three comedies to the Rhynsburger

Mistaken identity, fictional characters coming to life and one-day rehearsals promise laughs for the Summer Repertory Theatre season.

As the Summer Repertory Theatre enters its 42nd season this month, three performances will be produced over the upcoming weeks — “Is He Dead?,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and “Comedies in Concert.”

Graduate student Sarah Senff, the stage manager of “Is He Dead?,” said show-goers should be ready to laugh.

“All of these productions are whimsical and hilarious, truly perfect for any audience,” Senff said.

In Mark Twain's play “Is He Dead?” the main character, Jean-Francois Millet, fakes his own death in order to become a more successful artist. Millet then comes back dressed in women’s clothing as his imaginary long-lost widowed sister. The hilarity of mistaken identity ensues from there, with multiple characters disguising their identities throughout the performance.

Director Cheryl Black, a professor in the theatre department, said she is excited about the play being a part of the season.

“I’m very excited that it is Mark Twain; he is such an amazing writer and such a notable figure,” Black said. “This is a work that I had never heard of until about a year ago and it was not produced during his lifetime. So it’s just kind of an amazing phenomenal story that it’s happening at all.”

The repertory program is also producing a rendition of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a Tony Award-winning Broadway performance that is a tongue-in-cheek slight to early American musicals.

The plot is simple, starting with a theater-lover listening to his favorite record in his living room when discourse and mishap start developing around him. As the record progresses, characters of the musical begin to come to life around him.

“I don’t think anybody else is offering the diversity of a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical coupled with a 19th century classic farce,” Black said. “You can come into Columbia in one weekend and see both of them.”

But full-production shows are not the only thing on the bill this July. “Comedies in Concert” is a two-day performance going into its fifth season of Summer Repertory production. This performance puts actors on the stage, scripts in hand, with just one day’s rehearsal and read-through.

“‘Comedies in Concert’ is a unique production because it’s minimally rehearsed, with minimal stage production and very few props,” Senff said. “The actors run through the script that day and then get on stage and put on a performance. It’s great to see what happens.”

The productions begin Thursday with an evening performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” at the Rhynsburger Theatre.

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