Star of WMC's 'Heidi Chronicles' used to stay behind the scenes

February 26, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

For the first time in her college career, Rochere A. Whitaker steps out from behind the curtain to take center stage.

But she isn't really herself.

Tonight she is a Columbia University art history professor examining her identity in "The Heidi Chronicles," the Pulitzer dTC Prize- and Tony Award-winning comedy being performed by the Western Maryland College's theater department.

"I had always worked behind the scenes as a stage manager or set director on plays here," said Ms. Whitaker, 20, a junior sociology major and theater minor at the college. "And I only auditioned for this role because my friends talked me into it."

"Heidi" is a two-act play about a woman trying to keep the idealism of her teen years as she matures into a "responsible adult."

"It's about Heidi's life since high school to the present," Ms. Whitaker said. "The scenes are done like snapshots from important times in her life, the things she feels were important in her development as a young woman."

"She looks at how the events in her life shaped her opinion of herself as a woman," she said.

Ms. Whitaker said children would not be able to relate to the adult themes addressed in the play.

"It is a comedy that deals with some serious issues," she said. "The humor comes usually in the form of the sarcastic comments the characters make, but the situation is a serious one."

Ms. Whitaker said she is familiar with theater and stage production and the rigorous work involved in each performance.

Last month, as she practiced for "Heidi," she was also doubling as the assistant director for "Races Nurtured in the Dark," a psychological play written and directed by another WMC student, Kristine Holland.

"It's a good thing that we did 'Races' the first week into the practice for 'Heidi,' " said Ms. Whitaker. "There was one day where practice for 'Heidi' went from about 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., and then we practiced 'Races' from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m."

Although Ms. Whitaker said she had not heard of the play before she auditioned for it, she worked hard to bring life to what she considered a very difficult character.

"This part has so many conflicting emotions," Ms. Whitaker said. "Heidi's insecure, yet confident when she comes into conflict with someone. She fights when she has to."

The nine-member cast has not had much time to memorize the material and rehearse, Ms. Whitaker said.

"We received the play the end of last semester, and we started to practice the first day of school," she said. "We only had about a month to get everything together, and three weeks of real working."

And she had to work extra hard.

"Everybody else got a break because we practiced in scenes, but I didn't," said Ms. Whitaker, who is also a campus tour guide and involved with the campus ROTC. "I'm in all the scenes."

Ms. Whitaker said some feminist groups have taken offense to the play's ending.

"They didn't understand what it was supposed to represent," Ms. Whitaker. "I don't want to say what happens, but it's not about the character needing something to make her life as a woman complete."

"The Heidi Chronicles" will be staged at 8 p.m. Feb. 26-28 and March 4-6. Tickets are $5 for the public and $3 for senior citizens and for students with student identification. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Theater Department at 857-2599 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., or at the Alumni Hall box office, which will open a half-hour before each evening's performance.

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