Guest director portrays Irish-themed production at EWU theater

By Alla Drokina, Staff Writer

A snippet of Ireland is coming to EWU. Artistic director for Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre and guest director at EWU Jadd Davis will bring the musical “A Man of No Importance”  to life at Eastern this spring.

“A Man of No Importance” opens on March 4 and offers the audience a glimpse of 1960s Ireland. Based off the movie with the same name, it is about a man, Alfie Byrne, struggling with his sexual identity while pursuing his own passion for the stage and overcoming the barriers thrown in his way.

The actors must perform in an Irish dialect, which is something Davis has never worked with before. Davis’ past experience consists of performing in, directing other musicals and working as a casting director for Seattle’s Village Theatre. For this musical, he was forced to find outside assistance to establish a convincing Irish setting.

“I was able to engage [Tyler Krieg], a terrific dialect coach, to help keep us honest,” said Davis.

In fact, unadulterated honesty is Davis’ aim for this musical adaptation of the book.

“I love helping bring a script to life, and it’s very important to me to honor the original intent of the writers. If I can find a group of artists with whom to collaborate on that goal, it’s nirvana,” said Davis. “The challenges always lie in wanting everything to be as truthful and engaging as possible.”

David said several members of the crew had to overcome a flu outbreak during the first few weeks of rehearsal.

“There’s always something that creates a challenge that needs to be overcome,” said Davis. “That’s part of the fun.”

Haliey Gilbert, who plays  Adele Rice, the other lead character, admires Davis’ work and direction.

“[Davis] creates a wonderful working environment for creativity and growth as an actor,” said Gilbert.

Davis did not have a specific vision for the musical. His attention was devoted to properly conveying the story.

“It’s a story with a lot of movement in it from scene to scene, so while I’m not going for a major “concept” outside of clear storytelling, I did strive to create an environment that helps keep the piece moving – literally and figuratively,” said Davis.

According to Davis, the script for “A Man of No Importance” reads cinematically.

“You blink, and you are in a new location,” said Davis.

Each scene transitions into a new setting, and the revolving stage in the EWU theater greatly assists with that achieving that.

In theater, setting the scene depends on a number of factors. Actors must set the scene with their performance and energy. Set design and costumes are just as vital for creating the right scene in each act.

Christopher Hansen, who plays Alfie, the protagonist, gets to contribute to both set design and performance.

“My experience with this production so far has been a phenomenal one; since I work for the theatre scene shop building the set, I have literally been able to create my character’s world in both real life and onstage,” said Hansen.

Hansen said he was surprised to receive the lead role. He recalled leaving his audition feeling like he had failed. Fortunately, the ones who cast Hansen assessed his performance differently than he had.

For Hansen, the most rewarding part of playing Alfie is getting to present his story and, in that way, possibly help change lives.

“Seeing people feeling what I feel through my character brings me on the same plane as those people, and for an instance, a small moment in life, we understand each other,” said Hansen.

According to Gilbert, the playwright takes a delicate subject and presents it to the audience in an extremely elegant and real way.

“This musical is inspiring, heartwarming and magical,” said Gilbert.