Student-Run Since '51

Madrigal delivers an enchanted evening

Tarsa Weikert, Film and Theater Critic

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The annual Madrigal Spring Feast was held on March 5th – 7th in Strahan Hall. This interactive play was held in an attempt to bring together friends and family to celebrate, according to its program booklet, “peace, health and renewed Joy.”
It was directed by MCC music instructor Jan Phillips. Phillips said, “I began teaching at MCC in 1980 as an adjunct. I am an alumn of MCC and when I attended MCC, a Christmas Madrigal was the tradition in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was always such fun and an anticipated event in the community. In 1996 I became the head of the music department and wanted to resurrect the tradition. So in 1997 we had the first madrigal dinner that has been programmed every other year since. This was the 10th Medieval Spring Feast I have directed.”
When I entered the front of Strahan Hall it was no longer just MCC. I was transported back to medieval times. The lights were dim and gave an ominous pre-electricity feeling. A castle with a drawbridge took up the entire hallway leaving no evidence of modern times. The cast and crew took their time on the props to transport us back in time.
Phillips said, “The decorations and costumes are a collection resulting from years of construction.”
Not only were there fake torches hanging from the walls, but every cast member was dressed up in medieval clothing. Women were walking around in medieval attire with colorful hennins on their heads. For those of you born after the 16th century, this is a high cone-shaped headdress – think of a princess hat. This was a real “Throw Back Thursday.”
The night’s narrative was about a jester who had told his parents that he was actually a brave knight. Then one day he got a letter saying his royal family was going to show up at any moment. Freaking out, the jester made plans to become a knight so his family would not know the truth. He called upon four other knights to help him so he could win the upcoming battle for his sister. Whoever won the battle would marry his sister and, because they are related, if he won she would not be forced into marriage. This comedic play manages to take a look at women’s rights as well as everyone’s right to be what they want to be.
While waiting for the play to begin we were all seated in a different room and offered a platter of cheese and vegetables to munch on. There were two people playing instruments in the corner of the room for background music. The town crier came in and the play began right then and there. She went around the room one by one, announcing each guest by placecard, which had been given to us when we arrived.
It was especially interesting when she announced Calumet photographer Mallory Kauffman and I. She bowed and said that she was “most honored” to have us there. We were announced as “The royal scribes & engravers from the kingdom of Calumet.” Few that were announced were royalty, while the rest of the guest were common folk. After the semi-embarrassing announcement to the rest of the guest who we were, we were escorted through the makeshift castle and into the dining area. There we were escorted to our seats by a servant.
There were eight sets of tables arranged into four sections, one section for each side of the room. The main stage itself was set up as a dinner table. There was a knight and executioner in all black standing at the front near the entrance, accompanied by a guillotine and a rack of axes. This was a nice touch, to remind the audience how far back in time this play takes place. Music was being played live by one person just like it would if you went to a real royal dinner during this time period.
The main skit began and soon the main character, the jester, played by Adam Turner, made his debut. The jester was one of the more enjoyable characters. He rhymed with rhythm and told jokes that had the crowd laughing. To be a successful jester making people laugh is a must. It’s not just about the words that are said but it is also about the delivery.
The jester was all over the place and I loved it. We could see him full of life, prancing among the front four dinner tables. To me, he became the actual jester.
Once the first scene was over the dinner table on the stage began to sing. They had a conductor directly in the front of the stage to help them through the songs, but it blocked the view of some of the singers.
It would have been really cool to see them perform without the help of a conductor, but most of the songs were acapella so it makes sense.
After they had finished a few songs it was time to begin the dinner portion. While singing, servants went around passing out cups and pouring drinks. We were given some sort of tea, which tasted like warm apple cider but smelled like coffee.
The first portion of the dinner that was served was cheddar potato soup. This made me extremely happy because I love cheese.
While everyone was eating the guard and the executioner walked around the room making sure that everybody followed the dining rules provided by the king earlier in the show.
If caught disobeying these rules guests were sent in front of the king for judgment. A girl was caught having dirty nails at the dinner table and was forced to do the chicken dance in front of everyone.
Even after the dance the king still ordered for her head to be chopped off. In between every dinner portion there was singing and a skit. They had the singing and acting transition between servings down perfectly. The servants brought out the food and came back later to pick up the dishes. After the soup we were given a salad. The salad should’ve been given to us before the soup only because a salad is a lighter appetizer.
During the second course the knight and executioner made their way around the dining area again. They found another person who had broken the rules. He went up to the stage before the king and was required to have a spoon fight with the knight to win. They gave the audience member a very big spoon and gave the knight a regular sized spoon. The small humor thrown in sporadically throughout the play is perfect. It’s light silly humor that anyone can have a laugh at.
Each actor presented their part very clearly. The royal kings and queens, ladies and knights, walked the walk of a higher class person. The story built while we were eating and we never had to leave our seats. The main course was pork loin with potatoes and carrots on the side. When the meal came out I was already so full. It was delicious, all very delicious. For dessert, they handed out cheese cake with a red cherry sauce on top. All of the food was extremely good.
Each section was given a knight whom we had to cheer for. The red section (which is where I sat at) got the “sleep” knight. She was always caught falling asleep and in one of the scenes she even fell to the floor in the middle of a scene while everyone else continued to sing. This made me laugh because I could see myself actually being the sleepy knight.
The sleepy knight and the other knights were entered into the competition for the jester’s sister’s hand. Then a last minute entry was made. They announced that the Dark Knight would also be participating in the event. Then to my amazement, it was Batman! This was the most perfect incorporation of a superhero into the renaissance era. Being able to use the idea of the Dark Knight was very creative and I applaud whoever came up with it.
The knights fought until it was just the Jester and the Dark Knight left. They were made to duel against each other. The tables were divided up to cheer for either the jester or the Dark Knight. After the duel, a bunch of shocking discoveries were made. During one of the shocking discoveries the king, during an important line, messed up. I waited patiently for him to fix his error in a flawless effort but he stood there in silence. The crowd laughed with soft hearts and understanding minds. It happens to the best of us honestly. The rest of the cast kept their cool and they began the play over just a few lines before his and he nailed what he had to say. No one was cruel and most of the people that attended the play were real team players.
After the play part was done it was time for a little musical entertainment. The royal table sang English Madrigals for the rest of the show. If you are unaware of what an English Madrigal is, it basically consists of a lot of “falala’s.” The tone set the air with a pleasant feeling. The men had wonderful harmony and, at one point, one of them busted out singing Mulan. I was once again intrigued by the way they incorporated modern day elements into the show. It definitely made the show more enjoyable.
The Madrigal was a unique play that made you forget about the modern world. What makes a good play is when you have good feedback from the crowd. The cast had successfully got most of the audience members to participate in the cheering. Although a few members of the crowd were being obnoxious and disrespectful this did not harshen the overall mood of the play. Everybody seemed like they were having fun and at the end of the day that is all it’s really about.
The performing arts is somewhere everyone can express themselves. Whether building the props, singing in the show, or being the star, every part is important and that’s what I love the most about the theater. I truly enjoyed the Madrigal and everyone who attends.
Instead of spending my Saturday night watching TV I got dinner and a show. It was fun and an interesting experience, and honestly, if normal theatre bores the average college student, this show won’t.

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Student-Run Since '51
Madrigal delivers an enchanted evening