Writer and producer Kevin Stackhouse explains how Smile Frown Theatre began.
“Titanic” fans swept up in unanswered questions, possible “what ifs” and their own post-“Titanic” scenarios have their own original play to add to the fantasy, “After Carpathia.”
Kevin Stackhouse, the director, producer and writer of “After Carpathia,” has returned to the world of theater with another original Smile Frown production with Drew Garza, the resident director.
“I’ve had the idea for a while and waited for the right time to write and produce it,” Stackhouse said. “Now was the right time, and I went for it.”
“After Carpathia” focuses on what happens to the survivors of Titanic. The drama revolves around the main character, the young Rose’s fiance, Uncle Caledon and his downward spiral during the socio-economic changes of the 1930s.
Smile Frown Theatre Guild is Stackhouse’s own theater company that was founded in 2005. He said he decided he wanted to do theater and researched what it would take to accomplish this goal.
“I wanted to do theater one day, so I went on Google to find what names were available and Smile Frown was born,” Stackhouse said.
Since its creation, Smile Frown has grown to include theater majors of all years and is involved in original shows all year round.
In the quaint space provided by Tree House Books for the show to be held in, some audience members said they felt as if they were a part of the show. The actors walked through the aisle as they entered and exited the stage.
Classical and jazz music filled the air before the show began and during the two intermissions. The music was soothing and gave the room a coffee shop tone as audience members discussed what to expect in the next act.
“I thought it was really good. I thought that all of the actors, especially those who played Maggie and Trudy, were incredibly convincing,” Sozit Kurtu, a chemistry major at Drexel University, said.
The intimate setting depicted the 1930s time period well. The air of a regal study was apparent when characters, James Drexel and Uncle Caledon debated over great thinkers like Karl Marx and the concepts of Socialism.
“Uncle Cal was a very difficult character to play since right before we began rehearsal I had just finished an [improvisation] tour,” actor Johnathan Trombino, an undergraduate fine arts student at Temple, said. “I also didn’t know any of my lines, but once I got my lines down, I had to work to master the drama of Uncle Cal’s character.”
“It was interesting to see what they did with Cal’s character and how they changed him to be a more dynamic and multidimensional character,” Jen Chesterson, a Drexel graphic design major, said.
You can expect to find at least one character in the cast to identify with in “After Carpathia.” The plot contains issues people have faced in some way or another, such as searching for your own independence and breaking away from an overprotective parent.
The different relationships shown in the play are used to catapult the story forward through each act. The importance of family, companionship and a need to understand your roots are three important themes seen throughout the play.
There are also underlying messages and tones in the challenge of these relationships and how the world around us can directly affect those relationships.
“Any scene that I’m in with James is a favorite scene,” Trombino said. “It sends a message to those in the audience that you have to maintain that respect to your elders, and I liked that.”
Stackhouse was able to use classrooms in Barton Hall to rehearse the play before rehearsing in the actual space.
These themes of capitalism and society seem to be a theme for Stackhouse’s upcoming works.
Stackhouse’s ultimate goal for Smile Frown Theatre Guild is for it to become a prominent and respected theater company and provide the theater as a service to improve the local community.
“After Carpathia” will be shown at 1430 W. Susquehanna Ave. from March 2-4 at 8 p.m. and March 5-6 at 2 p.m.
For more information on new upcoming shows, ticket sales and auditions at Smile Frown Theatre Guild, visit https://smilefrown.weebly.com.
Alexandra Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.