Ludlowe students delve into faith in fall drama
FAIRFIELD — A Pulitzer Prize-winning narrative centered around the stories of five characters killed in a bridge collapse in 18th century Peru and a monk searching to discover whether the losses can be tied to divine intervention or simply chance is set to play on the Fairfield Ludlowe High School auditorium stage this weekend.
The theater version of Thornton Wilder’s “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” hit the stage for the first time in April. After English teacher and fall drama director Frances Kondziela read about the staging in a theater magazine, she began looking to bring it to Ludlowe this fall for the second series of performances of the work.
Kondziela reached out to the Wilder estate and, while the play has yet to be published, the estate sent her a copy and allowed her to stage the work in Fairfield. She was drawn to the play out of a love for the work of its author and felt it a good fit for educating and involving students. The piece has a large number of roles, many of which are speaking parts.
Kondziela said the intellectual depth of the work had the potential to pose difficulty, but students have risen to the challenge and embraced its serious subject matter.
“The piece itself is so deep and meaningful and worth the challenge,” she said. “It’s got a real power to it.”
‘San Luis Rey’ cast
Doña María, Marquesa De Montemayor: Mia Tommins
Camila Perichole: Avery Bebon
Esteban: Will Mandelbaum
Manuel: Stephen Kelly
Abbess Madre Maria del Pilar: Kalle Meehan
Uncle Pio: Yan Deoliveira
Brother Juniper: Calvin Sharp
Dona Clara: Julia Vitale
Pepita: Leah Herde
Capt. Alvarado: Alex Terepka
Don Jaime: Ian Sacci
Don Andres, the Viceroy: Stefano Guerra
Archbishop of Lima: Jesse Lanham
Dona Clara’s husband: Kai Marrelli
Barber: Ian Ward
Priest: Sebastian Pokludo
Alfonso G: Bret Markey
Manuel P.: Jackson Shostak
Nina: Caroline Dayton
Alfonso V.: William Granger
Vera N.: Lauren Lundvall
Sister Inez: Anne Lundvall
Judge 1: Rebecca Ryan
Judge 2: Grace Dortenzio
Townswoman 1: Angie Iacurci
Young Dona Clara: Emma Manderville
Narrators: Josie Ahlberg, Jackson Bauer, Kieran Brown, Delilah Carey, Blaise Carter, Nicole Crimmins, Henry Durham, Luc Gervais, Isabella Lombardo, Luke Marren, Christina Noeldechen and Emma Powell
Ensemble: Laura Bratton, Alissa Ceruzzi, Yujia Feng, Madison Gassel, Anna Hobbs, Emma Simonsen and Alexandra Therriault
Anchoring the story line of the play, Brother Juniper, a monk, witnesses a bridge break, leading to the tragic death of five characters. He delves into the victims’ lives, hoping to find their deaths were not simply random and raising questions of divine control and meaning in life and death.
Kondziela hopes the audience will appreciate the stories and themes of the performances, as well as the “brilliance” of Wilder’s writing. The director has staged two of Wilder’s other works at the high school, “Our Town” and “The Skin of Our Teeth.”
Senior Leah Herde, who plays Pepita, a girl raised in a convent, selected the music to go with the performance. She found folk music to accompany the scenes, including a piece titled “Civilians Lost,” that plays when characters — including her own — tragically cross the rope and wood bridge central to the plot and set.
For senior Mia Tommins, preparing “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” has been unlike any other staging in her years performing.
“You feel it,” Tommins said about the show, something she has not experienced with other works.
“This has just been a fulfilling challenge,” said Tommins, who plays Doña María, the daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant who struggles to connect with her daughter. “Since Day One, it hasn’t been easy.”
Senior Calvin Sharp, who plays Brother Juniper, said staging the play has been a different experience than other performances because it is set up as more about what has already happened and the meaning of those events, rather than events that unfurl during the show. Sharp’s character is the monk who witnesses the bridge collapse and sets out to discover why it happened. Sharp said he has enjoyed playing a part that guides the flow of the play and whose research frames its narrative.
Avery Bebon, a senior playing Camila Perichole, said she has enjoyed the journey of her character, from vanity to selflessness.
“It’s been amazing,” Bebon said. “It’s an incredible cast, and it’s an incredible story of love and tragedy and despair.”
Junior Kalle Meehan, in the part of the Abbess, said her character struggles with her high level of selflessness. The play, to Meehan, is a reminder to take care of each moment one is given.
Performances are scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. in the Ludlowe auditorium. Tickets are $8 at the door.