Complexities weave like vines through The Secret Garden

    Carly Robinson plays Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Photo by the author.

    When Will Skrip was about six years old, he almost fell asleep watching a performance of The Secret Garden in Toronto, but not for lack of interest. The Communication senior recalls forcing himself to keep his eyes open.

    “I just the knew the end was going to be so beautiful,” he said. “I wanted to see how everything turned out.”

    This weekend and next, Skrip will play Archibald Craven in the Theatre and Interpretation Center’s production of the same play at Cahn Auditorium. The show, directed by theatre professor Rives Collins, costs $25 for general audiences and $10 for students.

    Skrip’s connection to the show has grown stronger over the past few months. The story focuses largely on themes of loss, perseverance and hope. The main character is a 10-year-old girl named Mary Lennox whose parents die of cholera in India. She is sent to her uncle’s house in England. The original book, written by Francis Hodgson Burnett, was intended for children, but the themes in both the book and play can resonate with all age groups.

    “It just allows the audience to go back and think about a time when they were little and really vulnerable and afraid but then they ultimately realized something great or felt comfortable or felt wanted or felt needed,” Skrip said.

    The story takes place in multiple locations and incorporates western and eastern influences both visually and musically. The set is fairly simple — a grand, stationary, vague background with several smaller pieces moved onstage and offstage. Collins, the director, said the set intentionally doesn’t have walls so there can be more ambiguity when it comes to perceived boundaries of place, reality and time.

    “On this set, [the actors] can move from the interior world to an exterior world in a heartbeat, always allowing the story to move forward,” Collins said.

    Although the set might seem simple and straightforward, the play has required a tremendous amount of work from the cast and crew, according to Collins. Rehearsal began in September and the light weeks consisted of 21 hours a week, Sunday through Thursday. During tech week, the cast puts in even more time.

    “It is roll-up-your-sleeves, good old fashioned labor,” Collins said. “We’ve faced many challenges: a difficult score, a complex historical period, sharing multiple stories on multiple levels all at once. I’m really satisfied with our efforts so far.”

    Actor Carly Robinson has also faced another kind of challenge. The Communication senior plays Mary Lennox, a young girl with lots of problems and a complex background. Robinson says she tried not to downplay the intensity of the situation or the complexity of childhood.

    “I never try to play a kid. It’s more just trying to be true to the circumstances of the scene,” she said. “I try to capture her energy without simplifying what she’s going through.”

    Despite the hard work and long hours, the experience has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Skrip. Collins agrees that everyone involved in the show’s production has been extremely dedicated and enthusiastic.

    Both Skrip and Collins have called the show “beautiful.” They hope to connect with audiences of multiple generations through great music, a fascinating set and interesting characters.

    “Hopefully we’ll have a lot of families and a lot of small kids in the house,” Skrip said. “If they feel really connected and excited by what’s going on onstage, then we will have done our jobs.”


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