A timeless play on a timeless stage: New Wallingford theater venue to host drama in two languages

Steeplechase Productions will present a timeless play in a Wallingford venue nearly a century old.

The company will stage Edmond Rostand's "Les Romanesques" at Wallingford's newly remodeled Chapel Theatre in the Good Shepherd Center starting Thursday, Sept. 15, through Oct. 9. Rostand is famous for writing "Cyrano de Bergerac."

The romantic comedy - about two fathers who pretend they are mortal enemies to lure their children into a romance - is the basis for the adaptation of the popular musical "The Fantasticks."

All performances of "Les Romanesques" will be in French, followed by short intermission and then the English version, "The Romantics."

"It's hard to compare them, but they definitely feel like two different plays," said producer Tom Ansart, a Wallingford resident. "It sounds different. It feels different to watch."

"It's a very unique opportunity that doesn't often present itself in Seattle, nevertheless in the U.S.," cast member Colton Carothers said.

The challenges

Ansart noted that it was a challenge to find a cast of five who could perform the play in two languages. Auditions were held for three weeks.

"It's a really good cast, all the way around," Ansart said. "The timing has been very tight."

"If we do it right, you'll understand it, even if you don't understand every single word," added cast member Ronald Holden, who speaks French fluently. "The French version is by a master of his craft, and the English version is constrained by a well-meaning translation, which is restricted line-by-line and the limitations of iambic pentameter."

Holden plays Pasquinot, the miserly father of the girl, a role he played decades ago in "The Fantasticks." "The French allows for more dramatic speeches," he noted. "English is a more direct language."

Carothers noted that the French translation references the fairytale "Donkey Skin," which is skipped in the English version.

"What's hard about it is the fact that it is old French and that it's translated into old English," he said. "They're both equally hard and difficult."

Steeplechase Productions will only perform the first act of the three-act play, which will last about 30 minutes.

"It stands very well as a one-act," Ansart said. "I think we're bringing something beautiful to this community. It's just a sweet, beautiful play."

"We're playing it so it's very fun and upbeat," said Carothers, who plays Percinet, the son who is a hopeless romantic. "[My character] is completely in love with the idea of love, and that's it."

A new home?

The play will be performed in a new theater venue built inside of the Good Shepard Chapel.

"Right now, we're just really happy to be doing the opening show," Ansart said, adding that Steeplechase Productions would like to eventually make the space their home.

The theater company mainly performs neo-classical, Russian and French plays. Its former home, at Liberty Deli on Alki Beach in West Seattle, closed in February.

The Good Shepard Chapel, owned by Historic Seattle, is located at Meridian Park, at North 46th Street and Sunnyside Avenue North. It has a raised stage, vast ceiling, stained-glass windows and wood flooring.

"The Good Shepard Center is one of Seattle's great, old buildings," Holden agreed. "It's like an old European boarding school."

The headquarters of Alliance Francaise, a co-sponsor, are also in the space.

The theater will be halfway through its remodel when "Les Romanesques" opens, and next year, Good Shepherd will be 100 years old.

The show opens with a preview performance on Thursday, Sept. 15, and runs Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with selected Thursday and Sunday matinees, through Oct. 9. For ticket information, call Tom Ansart, at 935-8261.

Jessica Davis writes about arts and entertainment for the Herald-Outlook. She can be reached via e-mail at needitor@nwlink.com.

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