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Armstrong State University theater program to present ‘The Underpants’

  • JoJo Ward, Amanda Gibson, Deshod Holley and Jakarie Miller (top to bottom, left to right), star in Armstrong State’s production of “The Underpants.” Photo courtesy Armstrong State University.
 

Armstrong State University theater program to present ‘The Underpants’

12 Jul 2017

Whoops! As a woman stretches up to see over a crowd, her underpants fall down.

The aftermath of this most embarrassing incident is told in the comic play “The Underpants.” It will be presented by the Armstrong Summer Theatre for four performances from July 13-16.

The play is directed by Geoffrey Douglas, who is on Armstrong’s theater faculty.

“It is named ‘The Underpants’ because that is what the plot centers around,” Douglas says. “It’s about what happens during a parade for the king.

“At the parade, a mild-mannered clerk’s wife stretches up on her toes as the king goes by and her underwear falls to her ankles. We don’t see any of this.

“She tries to pick them up, but two people have spied this and have become infatuated with her,” Douglas says. “They both want to rent a room in her house to have as their own.”

The play was adapted for the stage by comedian/playwright Steve Martin.

“It is a 1910 sex farce in Germany written by Carl Sternheim,” Douglas says. “The version we’re doing was adapted by Steve Martin. He’s written a number of other plays since then.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s got a lot of physical comedy. It seemed like a great light show to do in summer.”

The original version was called “Die Hose” or “The Pants.” It was banned in Germany because of its suggestive satire.

The Classic Stage Company in New York asked Martin to write an adaptation of the script. His version debuted in 2002.

“There are seven characters,” Douglas says. “They are the king, the men Versati and Cohen, Louise and her husband Theo, their neighbor Gertrude and Klingelhoff, who is a curmudgeon.”

Directing the play proved challenging.

“The first challenge for me was to find the humor,” Douglas says. “Steve Martin wrote a good adaptation, but a lot of humor from the early 1900s might not translate.

“I’m trying to find the moment when something is OK for the benefit of the show. It needs to be true to what’s happening.

“We’re making light of things that might make people uncomfortable,” Douglas says. “Louise is the character who has lost her underpants. She has an interesting journey as she learns to be self-sufficient and not quite take orders at face value as she has done her whole life.”

The production is set as a period piece.

“It’s set in 1910 specifically,” Douglas says. “We have been building a replica of a German house in the early 1900s and finding the appropriate furniture.

“As far as costumes, we do period costumes as well,” he says. “This is a collaboration between Armstrong and Georgia Southern University. They allowed us to borrow some of their pieces to complete the set and costumes.”

Theatergoers will enjoy the characters’ antics.

“It’s very, very entertaining,” Douglas says. “I think the show has come together in a really exciting way. It is absolutely worth the journey to Armstrong to see it.

“A lot of the actors worked really hard on production and moving beyond educational theater. They’ve made the really strong choices and we have an excellent production.

“If you like Steve Martin comedies, this is very much in a vein like that,” he says. “You hear his voice throughout.”

Douglas has been at Armstrong for nearly a year.

“I started teaching at Armstrong last August,” Douglas says. “I just finished my Ph.D. in theater and performance studies. I’m fairly new to Savannah, but I have been teaching and producing freelance and professional theater across the South since 2009.

“I’m finding some new opportunities. I really enjoy working with the students at Armstrong.

“We’ve got a great group of dedicated students,” he says. “We have a dedicated staff as well as dedicated students. That’s always fun.”

The play itself is fun, too.

“I hope everyone makes time to come see it,” Douglas says. “It’s running just one weekend.

“This is a great opportunity to invest in the community of Savannah beyond River Street and Bay Street, which are great spots,” he says. “But there’s a great community atmosphere at Armstrong.”

IF YOU GO

What: Armstrong Summer Theatre presents “The Underpants”

When: 7:30 p.m. July 13-15; 3 p.m. July 16

Where: Armstrong State University’s Jenkins Hall Theatre

Cost: $12

Info: tickets.armstrong.edu, or call 912-344-2801 noon to 3 p.m. weekdays

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