Lessons on compassion in “Harvey”
he premise sounds like something
out of a demented Mary Poppins movie—a large, six-foot, invisible rabbit, a whirlwind comedy of errors involving a misdiagnosis of insanity, and a monologuing cab driver all figure into the story, but don’t let its quirky tone trick you into thinking that Harvey is just a light comedy.
Written in 1944 by Mary Chase, Harvey is a Pulitzer-winning play that follows the story of Elwood P. Dowd, who believes
he sees an invisible companion, much
to the chagrin of his family. They decide
to commit him to a sanitarium, a type of hospital for patients with chronic illnesses classified as insanity.
Jamie B., English teacher and director of the fall production, selected Harvey from a list of over 100 plays.
“I think a lot of the themes are really pertinent to our community—specifically, this play is about celebrating people who are different, and it’s about being open and kind and welcoming,” Jamie said.
He believes that theater is a great teacher of empathy. Jamie hopes that people who go see Harvey will “come in with an open mind, to laugh quickly, fall in love easily, and give themselves over to the passions presented on stage,” and “leave thinking about the judgments they make about people in their life.”
“My mother used to say to me ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh, so smart or oh, so pleasant.’ For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”
“The people who are perceived as
crazy in the beginning of Harvey are
in fact kind, open-hearted, welcoming, and accepting,” Jamie says. “These characteristics are in this world and
in the 1940’s world and emphasize the importance of being slow to judge others.”
While the execution of this play is constrained by a contract that prohibits changing of the script, Emma S., ’22 who plays Miss Kelly, the head nurse at the sanitarium admits that the relationship between her character and Dr. Sanderson’s is problematic. Emma says, “Their relationship highlights the sexism of the period, and changing the tones of her scenes with him, not just perpetuating the sexism, has been something that I’ve been trying to wrestle with as we get closer to the show.”
The class also provides both new and veteran actors a chance to explore and develop their skills on the stage. Alexa W. ’23, who has attended Nueva since seventh grade, enjoyed playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and wanted to repeat the positive experience, while Claire G. ’21, who also attended the Middle School and participated in improv in seventh grade, wanted to try acting for the first time.
Jamie’s own interest in theater began in high school as well, when he attended an all-boys school. Now, theater is a place for him to “worship, to be challenged and have fun, grow, and understand others,” and he hopes that he can transmute his passion for theater to his cast and his audience.
“[I want to] pay tribute to the original script,
“It’s not an experience I think I would get elsewhere, so I thought I should try it while I can.”
and respect Mary Chase’s intentions for this show and make our own impact on it, leveraging its beautiful moments towards a message that can positively change our own lives, the lives of our audience members, and our community both as a school and beyond,” Jamie said.
Harvey will be performed at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7, 8, and 9 at the Hillsborough GCC.
Written by Abi W.