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'Chess' turns Playhouse stage into board game

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

The future of the country depends on a championship —a chess championship. Maybe not in real life, but in the musical “Chess” it does.


Starting Feb. 21, The Pittsburgh Playhouse will welcome “Chess,” which will be put on by Point Park students and directed by assistant theater professor Scott Wise.


“[Wise is] incredibly talented, incredibly gifted. He leaves a lot up to the actor but at the same time knows how to direct,” said cast member Keaton Jadwin in Lawrence Hall’s fourth floor commuter lounge on Friday.


Jadwin, a sophomore musical theater major, plays Freddie Trumper, the American representative for the chess championship who goes against Soviet Union representative, Anatoly Sergievsk.


Jadwin is excited to not only be a part of this production, but also to play the role that he wanted to perform since high school.  Since he could not play his desired part then, he was determined to get his dream role this time around.


“This is my chance. I need to get this role. It means a lot to me – there’s something about this role I can connect to,” Jadwin said.


When giving a little bit of his character's background, Jadwin mentioned that Trumper is arrogant and has a bad attitude, but Jadwin understands why the character is like that. The character of Trumper did not have a loving mother, and his father left when Trumper was 12 years old.


Jadwin channels the character’s pain to perform what he said is his favorite scene, a song he performs entitled “Pity the Child."


“It’s sort of this heartbreaking song of why he is the way he is. It’s because he doesn’t have a family. He never grew up with a loving family,” Jadwin said.


Junior musical theatre major Jesse Pardee plays Florence Vassy, a Hungarian refugee who came to America. With her knowledge of chess, she makes a career out of it and advises Jadwin’s character to help him win.


“Everything that goes on in the play is essentially a chess match. Everything they say, everything they decide to do is a calculated move,” said Pardee in a phone interview on Saturday.


Pardee calls her character’s journey through the play “astonishing” and also enjoys the relationships her character develops with the two main chess players.


Junior Casi Riegle, a musical theatre major, is a part of the ensemble and a group known as the agents, whose job is to move people like they are chess pieces around the chess board-like set.


“We control the show, so we…move the furniture and manipulate the characters. It’s cool to kind of not be in the front row but have a lot of power in the back row,” said Reigle in an interview Friday in the Lawrence Hall lounge.


Another skill she and the other seven agents had to perfect was standing still, moving perfectly and having to move together in unison.


This show is guaranteed to have a few surprises that watchers will not suspect, according to Pardee.


“It’s going to be something that people aren’t going to forget easily because the way we’re presenting it is so unique,” Pardee said.


Reigle believes that because of Wise’s experimentation with the show, it brings it to a whole new level of creativity.


An example of that is the role of Walter, Trumper’s agent. The character is usually played by a male, but in this production it is played by sophomore musical theatre major Melessie Clark. Jadwin and Reigle agree that Clark does an excellent job portraying the character.


With a complex play like "Chess," audiences can take away different things from the show.


“It’s about a chess game, but the chess game represents something else,” Reigle said. “It’s the contrast between somebody rocking out and then talking about these really serious underlying tones.”

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