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'Misalliance' Offers Showcase for Walden Theatre Instructors

Robertson, Heather Burns, Ben Park

A Louisville theatre training program is featuring its instructors onstage this week to show the students how it's done.

“Misalliance,” by George Bernard Shaw, is the annual Professional Company-in-Residence production at Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players. It's part of a broader curriculum for the advanced students in Walden's conservatory program, who have been studying Shaw’s plays, along with those of Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward. The students presented a production of Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" earlier this year.

Artistic director Charlie Sexton plays the role of John Tarleton, an underwear magnate whose daughter is engaged to a wealthy aristocrat. This kind of play requires a specific performance style, Sexton said, and the faculty wanted to give the students a chance to see it onstage.

“Shaw comes close to Shakespeare in the sense of its musicality, of phrasing, of this is a section of music that we’ve just finished and now we’re transitioning to a new one," Sexton said. "It’s the rhythm and flow of the words and the pitch and the variety that you provide the audience."

The subtitle of the play is "A Debate in One Sitting," as all the action takes place on one Saturday afternoon at a country house in England. The play runs more than two hours, but Sexton said the wit and pacing make it feel shorter — not to mention the plane that crashes in at the end of the first act, bringing two unexpected guests.

The play, which was written in 1910, is entertaining and fun, said Sexton, but it's also substantive.

"It's about parents and children, and the relationship that they have once the children begin to get older, and the distance that occurs between them, but it's also — as a lot of Shaw plays are — it's a commentary on the social mores of the Victorian era and the Edwardian era," said Sexton.

After spending months steeped in the time period, performance practices and the historical context, Walden's conservatory students are prepared to learn from watching.

“So when these students come to see their instructors perform this play, they’ve already got a pretty good solid deep background on the history," Sexton said.

The performances are also open to the public. “Misalliance” runs Wednesday through Saturday at Walden Theatre, 1123 Payne Street. You can find more information here.

(Pictured: Neill Robertson, Heather Burns, Ben Park. Image via Walden Theatre.)