Plague Romance Highlights Blacktip Island’s Summer Theater Season

HORSEMAN ON THE ROOF

Gage Hoase takes center stage Thursday during rehearsals of the Blacktip Island Community Players’ production of The Horseman on the Roof. (photo courtesy of Craig Sunter)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage an English-language version the plague-themed French classic The Horseman on the Roof Saturday and Sunday to mark the start of its summer theater season, BICP members said.

“We needed something topical, with everyone so focused on this virus outbreak,” BICP director Doris Blenny said. “A play about cholera is just the thing to boost peoples’ spirits and get their minds off their problems.

“We decided on doing the play in English, too, since no one had time to learn French. And no one would understand it anyway,” Blenny said. “Plus, no one knows what a ‘hussard’ is. And ‘sur le toit’ sounds quite dodgy in English.”

BICP members said the play will also help residents socially distance.

“We’re staging the play literally on the roof of the Heritage House,” cast member Jessie Catahoula said. “The audience’ll sit outside, with chairs spaced out all around so people can see the play from every angle.

“There’s a few little platforms installed for important scenes and staging, but most of the action’ll be smack on the tin sheeting,” Catahoula said. “It adds an element of danger to the performance we think the audience will love.”

The cast includes:

Marina DeLow as Pauline

Gage Hoase as Angelo

Elena Havens as Monsieur Peyrolle

Alison Diesel as The Doctor

Lee Helm as Maggionari

Jessie Catahoula as Giuseppe

Jerrod Ephesians as The French Army

Payne Hanover as Various Angry Mobs

Cast members struggled to perform on the tilted surface.

“We surrounded the house with mattresses during rehearsals, so many people were falling off,” Alison Diesel said. “Most got the hang of it, but we’re leaving the mattresses deployed for the show, just in case. If it rains, that metal gets slick as snot.

“At one point, Lee Helm slipped was hanging on by just his fingers in the rain gutter,” Diesel said. “There was some debate about whether we should save him or just let him fall. We ended up having Dermott add an extra mattress and letting gravity take its course.”

Some in the community questioned the choice of subject matter.

“Doris and them are making light of a serious public health situation,” Frank Maples said. “This isn’t what we need right now. Some light opera would’ve been nice to take our minds off this constant pandemic nonsense. The island needs diversion, not depression.”

Others embraced the play.

“We just love watching them rehearse every evening,” Chrissy Grasby said. “They wanted to practice in private, but it’s on the roof, so they couldn’t really stop us from gawking. It gives the little ones something to do outside, and they just love when actors fall.”

Blenny has high hopes for opening night.

“It won’t be much of a surprise, with everyone having seen rehearsals, but the show will still go on,” she said. “We just hope folks’ll all come back and see the show sober. But what are the odds? Of the sober part.”

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