‘School’ Offers Modern-Day Twist on Classic Play

The Department of Theatre Arts' production of "The School for Scandal" includes (clockwise, from top left) Theatre Arts majors Alan Cooke, Bethany Ham, Jackie Pickard and Leslie Jones. The play opens Nov. 11. (Photo contributed)

Gossip and an obsession for societal status in modern-day Los Angeles are the central components to the Department of Theatre Arts’ presentation of “The School for Scandal” this month.

The Restoration classic, written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, will run at 8 p.m. Nov. 11-12 and Nov. 17-19 and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 in the Mainstage Theatre in the Fine Arts Building.

Director Dr. Natalie Gaupp, a senior lecturer at UT Arlington, said the 18th-century play should resonate with an audience inundated with celebrity gossip magazines and reality television.

“It’s a terrific example of how our modern-day society has such an appetite for and obsession with intrigue, gossip and status,” she said. “There’s an idea that anything written pre-1800 is academic or deeper and wiser than us. But [the author] wasn’t attempting to write some great and lofty academic piece; he was doing the reality television of his day.”

“The School of Scandal” centers on the wealthy and middle-aged Sir Peter Teazle (played by senior Theatre Arts major Jackie Pickard), who has married the young and comely daughter of a country squire. The fashionable society of which Lady Teazle (senior Theatre Arts major Leslie Jones) becomes a part consists mostly of malicious gossip – led by Lady Sneerwell (senior Theatre Arts major Bethany Ham) and her cohort, Snake (senior Theatre Arts major Alan Cooke). Slander and lies leave many of the characters unsure of whom to love or trust. David Ray (senior Theatre Arts major) and Rosalinda Olivares (junior Theatre Arts major) round out the cast.

Gaupp said the comedy has popped up several times during her undergraduate and graduate studies, but she had never seen the play performed or felt the urge to direct and produce it. A trip to Los Angeles last year for a theatre conference sparked an idea and Gaupp decided to approach the work with a modern-day setting.

“Setting the play in contemporary Los Angeles, with no changes to Sheridan’s dialogue, serves to highlight how current society’s preoccupation with gossip and celebrity status is not so very different from the same societal obsessions of Sheridan’s day,” she said.

“The School for Scandal” is one of two productions Gaupp will guide this season. Her original work, “Paparazza,” directed by Associate Professor Dr. Dennis Maher, explores issues of celebrity and Hollywood and will debut in April 2012. Gaupp said both works were inspired by her trip to Southern California.

“These are concepts that have always been rolling around in my head,” she said. “But after spending time in L.A., everything came to the forefront. I knew I was ready to write about it. The experience gave me the push I needed to start tackling the projects I wanted to do.”

Tickets for “The School for Scandal” are $10 for general admission, and $7 for senior citizens, students with ID, and UT Arlington faculty and staff.  For tickets/reservations, group rates, or further information, contact the Department of Theatre Arts Box Office at (817) 272-2669.

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