Theatre Arts brings magic and whimsy to the Lees-McRae stage with folktale-inspired production “The Old Man and the Old Moon”

In a season of shows specifically chosen to challenge student actors to stretch their limits and expand their skills, the final Lees-McRae Theatre Arts show of the 2023−24 academic year requires an intensity of performance and unique production techniques to execute the program’s latest musical, “The Old Man and the Old Moon.”

“The Old Man and the Old Moon,” which will be performed across two weekends in April, is a whimsical tale that tells the story of an old man who has maintained the phases of the moon for as long as he can remember. When his wife is drawn away from their post by a mysterious melody, the old man must decide between what he has known his whole life and following his wife into the great unknown world beyond his post.

“I will be playing the role of the old man. He is the title character of the show, he is the perspective character, and you’re following his journey to basically go after his wife. It’s a great adventure,” junior Dustin Trafton, who is majoring in Musical Theatre and minoring in Technical Theatre, said. “He goes to find her not knowing what he has done wrong, and then over the course of his journey he comes to understand more about who he himself is, more about who she is, and more about their lives together.”

A true ensemble production, most of the actors in “The Old Man and the Old Moon” play many parts and are all on stage for the majority of the show’s run-time. The show is an all-hands-on-deck production that requires actors to also contribute to the progression of the narrative in traditionally “behind-the-scenes” ways.

Actors are in charge of moving props and set pieces to illustrate movement across time and between settings, operating puppets, and even creating the show’s score live on stage by playing musical instruments both traditional and homemade. Trafton said one of the most unique elements of the show is the use of glass bottles, which are filled with different amounts of water to achieve certain pitches and are played as a kind of xylophone in the show.

Senior Theatre Arts major Allison Dion’s primary acting role is Matheson, the show’s narrator who guides both the audience and the actors through the show. Dion said that playing the narrator role for a show like this can be challenging, as it is Matheson’s job to keep the audience grounded in a narrative that is constantly changing in front of their eyes.

“It’s an ensemble piece where you’re working really closely with all of your other actors who are playing a variety of different roles, and as the person playing the narrator, most of my job is to make sure that these people stay connected within the story,” Dion said. “Most of the other people are changing around me, and I’m one of the few constants, which makes it really interesting because I have a different relationship with all these people on stage.”

In addition to character challenges that include accent work, maintaining high energy, playing a musical instrument, and nailing intricate blocking, many of the students also complete technical theatre roles. Dion is on the prop team, where she has tackled the creation of the show’s puppets, while Trafton helps with construction on the set building team.

For both Dion and Trafton, bringing this show together has pushed their skills as actors and their technical theatre chops, and they are eager for all their hard work to come together to create a magical show. As a senior preparing for graduation this May, “The Old Man and the Old Moon” will be Dion’s final production with Lees-McRae Theatre Arts, but she said this is a show she is proud to go out on, and one she hopes the audience will connect with as much as she has.

“This show is not only a lot of fun, but it can connect with anyone no matter their age. No matter where you are in your life there is something in this show that can just reach out and tug at your heart strings and make you laugh. It’s a really beautiful piece,” she said. “It pulls aspects from all of the things I have done here and combines them into one beautiful piece that I’m really looking forward to showing to the audience.”

There will be seven performances of “The Old Man and the Old Moon.” Evening showings will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 11; Saturday, April 13; and Friday, April 19. Matinee performances will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 12; Sunday, April 14; Saturday, April 20; and Sunday, April 21.

Get tickets to the final production of the season now

By Maya JarrellMarch 26, 2024