MHS students connecting with 17th Century through ‘heart-wrenching’ Fall play

“Cyrano de Bergerac” opens at Moorestown High School on Thursday, Nov. 2, following a two-month rehearsal period for the 28-student cast.

Moorestown High School students rehearse for their fall play on Wednesday, Oct. 18 in the school’s auditorium. The group rehearsed the second act of Cyrano De Bergerac.

Moorestown High School senior Michael Gural said Moorestown Theater’s fall play, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” is pushing the program to new emotional heights.

“The last two acts are probably the most emotional acts I’ve seen that we’ve done on the stage in awhile,” Gural said. “It’s heart-wrenching to watch.”

On Thursday, Nov. 2, “Cyrano de Bergerac” opens at Moorestown High School following a two-month rehearsal period for the 28-student cast. The play is a classic piece of literature set in the 17th century, which tells the story of poet and swordsman Cyrano de Bergerac.

Cyrano, who despite being intelligent and heroic, is overlooked by Roxane, the woman he loves, due to his large nose in favor of the handsome but dim-witted soldier Christian de Neuvillette. Cyrano finds himself as Christian’s ghost writer feeding the soldier poetry, and the show follows the love triangle that ensues.

The show’s business manager and assistant director, Greg Harr, a history teacher at MHS, said over the course of students’ time at MHS, the goal is to expose them to a wide variety of genres. He and his wife, Erica Harr, the show’s director, saw a revival of “Cyrano” on Broadway several years ago and put it on their ever-growing list of shows to have students perform.

Erica Harr said the rehearsal process started with table work where the cast broke down some of the trickier pieces of language and discussed their characters’ motivations. She said discussing the play in that way enabled students to connect more fully with the piece, and students quickly found that, despite being set in the 17th century, they could easily relate to the sentiments of the piece.

“They’re really insightful and smart and compassionate and great people, and this is a great way for them to express themselves and get to know themselves,” Erica Harr said of the play.

The Harrs’ goal for the theater program is not only to entertain people who come see the show but to educate students as well. Greg said they had students research and present different facets of the play from the author to 17th century foods and modern day adaptations of the production.

Erica Harr said even if students don’t go on to become actors, it’s just as important to foster an appreciation for the theater.

“For a lot of them, what we’re hoping is they become supporters of the arts,” Erica Harr said.

The play will feature 17th century costuming. Erica said while researching 17th century costumes on the internet, she found that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival rents cavallier pieces, and so, “Cyrano” will feature elaborate costumes on loan from the festival.

Gural, who plays Christian de Neuvillette, said despite being written in verse, the show’s plot is something to which modern-day audiences can relate.

“It’s the basis of many modern-day stories,” Gural said. “It’s so ingrained into our culture today.”

MHS junior Carlie MacMillian, who plays Roxane, said the show’s dialogue seemed like a challenge at first, but through the rehearsal process, the students were able to break it down and connect to the show’s themes. MacMillian said she’s come to connect with her character’s journey.

“She’s just overcome by love, but she’s still very eloquent and has a sense of mind to her,” MacMillian said.

MHS senior Rohan Wadhwa, who plays Cyrano, said the play has something for everyone.

“This play is a mixture of everything,” Wadhwa said. “You have action. You have comedy. You have love. You have unrequited love.”

Gural said his hope is that attendees leave with a new take on romance. He said the sentiment that appearances aren’t everything is just as relevant in the 17th century as they are today.

“People aren’t all that they’re outwardly putting out there,” Gural said. “Appearances can be deceiving.”

Performances of “Cyrano de Bergerac” will take place in the Moorestown High School auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 2, Friday, Nov. 3, and Saturday, Nov. 4. at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online at http://moorestownhstheater.weebly.com.