Happy Journey with Thornton

Joy Sawyer Mulligan
“What was so interesting,” said Drama Director Sandy Jensen about the fall play, “was that at times, on show nights, the house was full, but so quiet. Really quiet."

“What was so interesting,” said Drama Director Sandy Jensen about the fall play, “was that at times, on show nights, the house was full, but so quiet. Really quiet. As if for a few brief minutes coughs and colds and the squirmies were left holding a collective breath.”


The “house”: The Milligan Center for the Performing Arts

The one-act plays: The Happy Journey To Trenton and Camden and Pullman Car Hiawatha

The author: Thornton Wilder CdeP 1915

The cast: Thacher students from all four classes

The crew: ditto

The frosting on the cake: the presence of Tappan Wilder—Thornton’s nephew, the son of another CdeP grad (Amos CdeP 1913), literary executor and manager of his uncle’s intellectual property, Honorary Chair of the Thornton Wilder Society, and former professor and administrator at Yale University—visited Thacher for the first time, gave a richly informative lecture about the life and work of Thornton Wilder after formal dinner one evening, joined English classes and dining room tables, and rolled up his sleeves in the School’s archives.


If the performance made for a thought-provoking evening for the audience (which it did), the plays provoked much thought among the cast, too. What does it take to understand and inhabit the character of a dying woman—or of an hour or a planet? Junior Grace Lowe, who played Harriet Millbury in Pullman Car Hiawatha, looked back at early rehearsals and said, “At first I didn't really understand the play or Harriet.” But practice and study—and the guidance of a seasoned director—worked their magic, and she continues, “as we kept rehearsing I came to love both. I loved working with Mr. Jensen, the cast, and the crew on these one-act plays. We had a blast.”


Of the play that takes in life, death, madness, and everything in between, draws connections between specks on a map (the train is taking the run between New York and Chicago) and the whole solar system, and plays with the cosmic hum, Tawni Stoop ’11 said, “For me, it was a way to experience happiness, sorrow, joy, and confusion all in a matter of one hour. Even though many of the moments seemed as if  they had no relevance, everything connected (or at least in my head they did). It was an interesting test of an actor's versatility.” The mix of classes in the cast and crew—made for “a fun way to get to know some of the upperclassmen,” said freshman/a.k.a. Arch Angel Joe Walton. (Kind of like formal dinner, but without the food?) Kallie O’Connor’s take on being one of the six actors in Happy Journey zeroed in on the practical: “Play practice was what I looked forward to every night. It meant a shorter study hall and Mr. Jensen's jokes.”


For most of the Masquers and crew, being involved in productions like this one a whole lot about camaraderie. Senior Lauren Rosenfeld: “I had a great time acting with [classmates] Sarah Boneysteele and Jackson Berler. Our scene was so much fun that I couldn't help but smile”—a sidelong reference, perhaps, to the novelty of playing opposite a raving madwoman (Sarah’s part). “I enjoyed the play,” said junior Graham Abbey, “because it is a beautiful example of something that is [virtually] worthless if not performed by a group of people who have great faith in each other. This trust breeds the kind of friendship that I so value in this school.” Lilli Kay, a freshman, observed how spirit of collegiality develops: “The cast jokes and make-up dusted countertops became quite familiar by the time the few nights of football style pump-ups and performances had ended.”


Behind the scenes—or in the case of our performing arts building, below the scenes—crew members also wrestled with Wilder’s themes and expression. Said wardrobe designer Sarina Patel, a senior, “Costumes for this production were interesting: because Thorton Wilder was a minimalist when it came to set design, costumes gained double importance for establishing context for the action. The most entertaining, I'd have to say, was creating Laura Ammons' fat-suit (her proportions and mass distribution changed daily) and crafting the galactic bowler hats we put on the Planets.”


The rewards of this sort of engagement over time finds its way into Sandy Jensen’s final words on the fall endeavor: “With every rehearsal and with every performance, the unfolding mind of Thornton Wilder challenged our intellect and enlightened our spirit.


Through a Thacher boy from 1913, we were all connected. To the human spirit, to art, to an old friend and fellow Toad we came to know and love.”


The Happy Journey To Trenton And Camden


The Stage Manager--Max Hoffman

Ma Kirby--Taryn Van Vliet

Arthur--Derek Gulick -Stutz

Caroline--Olivia Stonehouse

Pa (Elmer) Kirby--Jake Gannon

Beulah--Kallie O’Connor


Pullman Car Hiawatha

The Stage Manager--Max Hoffman

A Maiden Lady--Sarra Wynn

A Porter--James Bissett

An Engineer--Graham Abbey

Another Engineer--Chris Dienst

A Stout, Amiable Woman--Laura Ammons

A Doctor--Will Callan

Philip Milbury--Will Rutter

Harriet Milbury--Grace Lowe

An Insane Woman--Sarah Boneysteele

Her Nurse--Lauren Rosenfeld

Her Attendant--Jackson Berler

Grover's Comers--Amy Kim

The Field--Andrew Atwong

A Tramp--Tawni Stoop

Parkersburg, Ohio--Casey Mulchay, Taryn Van Vliet

A German Ghost--Michael Stenovec

Another Workman--Cassie Disner

The Weather--Lucy Meyers

The Hours:

Ten O’clock--Taylor Tobin, Shelby Luce

Eleven O’clock--Olivia Stonehouse

Twelve O’clock--Lilli Kay

The Planets:

Saturn--Michael Stenovec

Venus--Mac Combs

Jupiter--Marco Hernandez

The Earth--Robbie Yeagle

The Angels:

Gabriel--Joe Walton

Michael--Shravan Rajasekaran




Light Designer/Board Operator--Leeah Stickelmaier

Light Operator in training--Alice Hyde

Sound Board Operator--Trevor Mulchay

Stage Manager--Sienna Courter

Assistant Stage Manager--Tom Wilkinson

Stage Crew--Bryanna Lloyd, Amy Feldman, Parker Dawson.

Wardrobe--Sarina Patel, Sophie Subira, Wohona Delgadillo, Bea Taylor


Technical Director--Claire Kendrick

Assisstant to the Director--Raquel Reisinger











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