Behind the Scenes of ‘Girl Science’

By schwartzsa | February 28, 2012

The Bulletin caught a sneak peek of Arcadia University Theater’s production of Girl Science, written by Adjunct Professor Larry Loebell and directed by Rebecca Wright, Artistic Director of Applied Mechanics, with costume design by Jackie Sherman. The small cast and close-knit production team assembled in Arcadia’s MainStage Theater on a damp evening to run scenes and get a feeling for the performance space.

Entering the MainStage Theater during pre-production is like entering the Land of Oz: disorienting and transformative. The glow of stage lights, ladders leading to nowhere, a cast of characters speaking in hushed but relaxed tones, the clamor of moving scenery and a well-behaved Airedale Terrier named Sampson ambling about set the scene. This is where magic happens.

The four-person cast—Lauren SuchenskiJess JacobRyan Lantzy and Connor Feimster—chat with the  repose of a family after a Sunday supper, that is until Jacob, whimsically leaps from her perch atop a house seat. “You want to try it?”

“Sure,” replies Suchenski. And the tranquil mood swerves into a tense and climactic scene. Transformed, Suchenski and Jacob are no longer students.

The play focuses on Lois (Jacob), who selects her great-aunt Dr. Johanna Vernon (Suchenski), an eminent biologist and so-called forgotten pioneer of science, as the subject for her new book. Reluctant at first, Johanna soon shares stories from her professional life and seemingly charmed girlhood. But when Lois inadvertently uncovers a tragic truth, both women are changed forever.


Before the actors dive into more scene work, Michael Kerns, Production Manager and Set Designer for the production, explains the lengths to which the design team has gone to convert Arcadia’s MainStage into a make-shift black box theater. Both the seating area and performance environment have been shifted to the space that is traditionally the stage, in effect, including the audience in the action. Therefore seating for the show is limited.

Led to a seat just in front of a rustic-looking gazebo, we were suddenly in the middle of an action sequence, as Lantzy and Feimster erupted into a fight scene.

“This production is unlike anything else I’ve ever done,” says Feimster. “Taking on two vastly different roles in a span of minutes has really challenged me as an actor. Going from a 50-year-old, coal-selling father to a 15-year-old boy in the 1920s has really set the bar high for my future endeavors.”

“Having the cast, crew and especially Becky this close to me throughout the process has really enlightened me. We all have input. While Becky is the standalone director, there are aspects that we all bring to the show, which has really made it quite special.”

Wright gives quiet and concise direction. “I want you to work with the space we have, rather than the space we imagined,” she says. It’s clear that acting in such confined quarters is a completely different experience not just for the audience but also for the actors. The reactions, the expressions, the volume must be whittled to a careful and succinct discipline. The audience will see everything.

  • Feb. 23, 24, 25, and March 1, 2, 3 at 8 p.m.
  • Feb. 25 and 26, March 3 and 4 at 2 p.m.