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Here definitely wasn't a play last week

Ivy Chan '24

Oct 28, 2022

Last weekend, Stony Batter presented Patrick Hamilton’s play Gaslight, originally published as Angel Street. The play is a Victorian thriller that tells the story of the Manningham couple on Angel Street in New York in the 19th century. 

The show originated the term “gaslighting,” as the mild-mannered Mr. Manningham slowly pushes his tender, devoted wife Bella to the brink of insanity with a hint of kindness that masks his more sinister motives. 

Kelly Dowling, director of the performance, said, “This was a play that, while written many decades ago, still feels disturbingly relevant. Due to the writing style of the 1930s the lead female character, Bella, was pretty marginalized in the original script. We wanted to make some unique choices using the existing characters and text to avoid violating copyright law.”

One major change to the production concept was taking the inspector character - Detective Rough and breaking him into three individual characters that were not real, but part of Bella’s subconscious. Dowling explained, “The goal was to give Bella agency over her husband’s downfall. To make sure that she ended the show free, but also empowered.”

Mel Cort ‘23 played Tough Love Rough (T.L. Rough). Cort described their character as “the meaner and snarkier facet of Mrs. Manningham’s subconscious.” Cort enjoyed the role:“It’s a lot of fun, but the beard makes my face itchy.” Their favorite part of the play was “camping out behind the two-way mirror because I can watch everything and not be afraid of making faces too big!” 

The play’s theme centered around women, specifically spousal or partner abuse. Cort mentions that they were glad this theme was chosen. “We are addressing the seriousness of domestic abuse while giving the woman her power back. I’m proud of how much we raised for the Women In Need organization.” 

The profits raised through online donations and concession stand sales during the show were donated to Women In Need, INC, a Chambersburg women’s shelter, to support the needs of victims of spousal abuse. Claire Chow ‘26 said, “I think it is a good organization to support because the show touches on topics like domestic abuse.” 

Chow filled the role of Elizabeth, a maid in her fifties, whose decision to hand Mrs. Manningham's letter to the detectives played a pivotal part in the action. Chow loved the experience. “The cast, crew, and audience were the best. I loved working with this cast. Everyone gets along so well and we made a lot of great memories together.” She added, “It was great having our community see the hard work we have put in for the past two months.” 

This sense of community was also present in the tech crew, a vital part of any production. Crystal Chiu ‘26 believes that being a part of the tech crew is special, because “at the beginning of the term, people are not as close as we are just starting to get to know each other and work out how to do each task assigned to us. However, as time passes and tech week comes, we are spending 4 hours a night on weekends and 10 hours on Saturdays together: you are bound to become close friends. You learn to support each other, cover each other's mistakes, and share way too much chocolate milk and tootsie rolls together during the breaks.” 

Chui added, “Syd Watts, our stage manager, did an amazing job organizing the details of the play and calling out cues for the show. It was a pleasure working with them and I hope to do so again in the near future.”

Jessica Doubell, the Technical Director for the Burgin Center, said, “We had careful planning, multiple discussions with the creative team, and an enthusiastic team of skilled students on the tech crew. We used stencils and a lot of our own prop furniture. We borrowed the fireplace bottom from Totem Pole Playhouse and built around the 2-way mirror and surrounding topper.” 

Dowling and Doubell always wish there were a little extra time to add tech details and clean the performances; however, everyone in Stony Batter should be proud to have brought this production to life and to additionally contribute to a worthy, local non-profit.

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