With a little help from friends, Loyola Blakefield brings 'Frankenstein' to life

  • Notre Dame Preparatory School's Nancy Padden, left, 17, and Loyola Blakefield's Nigel Goldsborough, 15, perform in "Frankenstein" at Loyola Blakefield in Towson. The two were part of a preview performance on Oct. 25. The show officially opened Oct. 26.
Notre Dame Preparatory School's Nancy Padden, left,… (Staff photo by Jen Rynda )
October 31, 2012|By Steve Jones

Nigel Goldsborough is a normally a mild-mannered freshman at Loyola Blakefield High School.

But something strange happened to Goldsborough this month, and it's a good thing that his change in attitude is only temporary.

When the Loyola Blakefield Players decided to present "Frankenstein" for its fall production, Goldsborough became "The Creature." He's the only actor who can walk off the stage and not be recognized by the audience after the curtain comes down.

"It was really challenging," said Goldsborough, of Roland Park. "For the first two weeks (of rehearsals), I was working on lines. For the last two weeks, I worked on emotions and feelings. I found an incensed attitude in the character, and magnified it about 200 times. The mask changed the way that I had to view the character. Once I had the mask on, I had to become "The Creature," and I couldn't go back."

Getting Goldsborough in costume wasn't the only challenge for the production, which finishes its run this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2 and 3, with a pair of 7 p.m. performances at the theater inside Loyola Blakefield's Mary Creghan Library.

Most stage sets take a while to assemble, and the crew needed more than 100 hours to finish the "Frankenstein" configuration. For nearly a month, the actors rehearsed for up to two-and-a-half hours a day. In addition, the daunting technical aspect of the Mary Shelley classic produced a few harried moments for director and scene designer Christian Garretson.

"I think doing horror is fun," said Garretson, Loyola Blakefield's theater director and a drama teacher at the school. "I had this play in my mind for a while, but every time I looked at it I thought it was impossible. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to build the laboratory. There are 75 sound cues in the show, numerous scene changes, a projectionist and a light designer, and all of that had to work together. There was just so much that we had to figure out."

"Mr. G. is very passionate about what he does," said senior Matt LaRoche, who plays Lionel Mueller. "His specialty is stage design and direction, but he gives you very good character notes and helps the actors train themselves to think through the logic of what they have to do."

The choice of "Frankenstein" is a departure for Garretson and his charges. In recent years, Loyola Blakefield has produced plays such as Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," "Children of Eden," "The Grapes of Wrath," and "1776". But the group was ready for a change of pace this fall.

"With this play, the technicality and physicality is such a big part of it," said senior Lucas Iverson, a Catonsville resident who plays Henry Clerval. "Just moving around on stage was a whole new dimension."

The production is not limited to students at the sprawling school on Charles Street. "Frankenstein" contains several female roles, which are filled by students from nearby Notre Dame Preparatory School and Maryvale Preparatory School.

"The girls want to come and audition, and the boys are already here," said Garretson. "It's really a great mix."

Stage veteran Nancy Padden plays the role of Elizabeth Lavenza, who is destined to be the bride of lead character Victor Frankenstein. Loyola Blakefield is like a second home for Padden.

"I've always felt welcome here," said the Cockeysville resident, a senior at Notre Dame Preparatory whose freshman-year appearance in "The Grapes of Wrath" started her career with the Loyola Blakefield Players. "I can't do any other after-school activities (at NDP), and it's a challenge. But it's so rewarding. I really love theater."

Padden, who is one of six children in her family to appear in a Loyola Blakefield production, is joined on stage by NDP classmate and fellow carpooler Charlotte Scheper ,of Cockeysville, who plays Frau Mueller in the play.

"At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to do this play because of all the college applications being due," Scheper said. "But I love Loyola shows. This is where I've met all of my best friends, so thought it would be nice to wrap up my high school career at the same place where I started theater."

Marena Gloth, who hails from Finksburg, is a freshman at Maryvale but hardly new to the stage.

"When I was very young, I always did plays with my grandparents," said Gloth, who is in her ninth play overall but first at Loyola Blakefield. "I'd done a couple of plays at Maryvale, and I just wanted to try another school. The cast helped me to understand my role, and I became a much better actor from this experience."

While more than half of the cast are underclassmen, this is the final fall production for Tim Neil, who plays the lead role of Victor Frankenstein. The senior from Baltimore's Hamilton neighborhood is more than satisfied that he took the theatrical route in high school.

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