September 29, 2011
Alexis Riley (Class of 2013) and Ryan Lambert (Class of 2013) perform in Rebecca Gilman's The Sweetest Swing in Baseball. (Photo by Tony Firriolo)
The Annie Russell Theatre kicked off its fall 2011 season with The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, Rebecca Gilman’s humorous drama about an artist finding her own voice in an exploitive world. Thanks to recently completed final renovations, a visit to the Annie Russell is now a sophisticated evening of cultural elegance in an opulent setting.
Student Spencer Lynn (Class of 2012) and President Lewis Duncan (right) present Wynee Warden with a portrait of her that will be hung in the Annie Russell Theatre lobby. (Photo by David Noe)
The opening night performance of The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, which runs from September 23 through October 1, was dedicated by the production’s cast and crew to Wynee Warden, Winter Park philanthropist and one of the primary benefactors of the Annie Russell Theatre.
Warden’s recent donation was the source of the funding for the Annie’s renovations, which included state-of-the-art sound and lighting technology, a silent climate control system and new carpet and seats in the house. These ongoing projects began over two years ago, finishing up with the interior facelift received this summer. With an introduction by President Lewis Duncan, Rollins demonstrated its appreciation of Warden’s generosity by renaming the seating area known as Box B to the “Winifred M. Warden Box” and unveiling a portrait of her to be hung in the lobby of the theater.
Warden’s impact on the quality of productions presented at the Annie Russell was more than evident. This season’s first production, directed by former department chair and current Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Jennifer Cavenaugh, offered the audience a tantalizing and mesmerizing array of hypnotic sounds and dazzling lights, designed by Professor of Sound Design Robert Miller and Professor of Lighting Design Kevin Griffin. Additionally, the talented cast captivated the audience with believable portrayals of their characters’ mental states.
In her first leading role at the Annie, Alexis Riley (Class of 2013) played Dana, an artist struggling with success and expectations who attempts suicide and winds up in the psychiatric ward. Riley’s depth of emotions throughout the entirety of her performance was impressive.
“I could relate to the pressure felt by Dana,” commented Riley following the September 23 performance. “I felt an awesome responsibility in my first leading role and connected it to the anxiety of my character.”
Annie Russell veteran Ryan Lambert (Class of 2013) stole the show with his interpretation of Gary, a schizophrenic locked up for trying to assassinate a local TV News anchor. “Every show is a new challenge,” commented Lambert. “Playing a crazy person, I had to make tough choices about how I wanted to come across. I ended up finding the fun in the character and added a quirky edge.”
Making her Annie Russell debut was Lyndsey Goode (Class of 2012). “It’s not normal for a theatre student to be making a mainstage debut as a senior,” Goode explained. “Sure, I was nervous. But, as soon as I stepped foot on the Annie’s stage, I was confident and in control.”
Other company standouts included Ryan Roberson (Class of 2015), Jon Perry (Class of 2014) and Kaitlyn Schirard (Class of 2012).
The Sweetest Swing in Baseball is an unusual choice for a season-opening production, as it is long and dialogue-driven. Nevertheless, the performance is made entertaining by the use of humor and absurdity to bring the heavy topics of suicide and the pressures of success into perspective.
For more information on the Rollins Department of Theatre and Dance’s fall season of shows, please visit www.rollins.edu/annierussell or call the box office at 407.646.2145.
By Justin Braun
Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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