Jenny Suchan knows that love can be far from rational. A performer in Hoover Middle School’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience,” Suchan understands why the play’s heroine offers to marry a self-acknowledged “sham” of a poet.
“She hears that love is the most unselfish thing you can do,” said Suchan. “She doesn’t like anything about him, so what could be more unselfish than marrying someone like that?”
Perplexing plot twists are all a part of “Patience,” Hoover’s 18th annual production of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Hoover theater teacher Pamela Leighton-Bilik has directed each of the 18 productions.
“I like the idea of establishing a tradition for the kids and for the community,” Bilik said. “At the risk of being considered a one-trick pony, I like being part of something that’s an anticipated part of the community.”
MORE THAN 70 Hoover students are part of the production. “Everybody has something to offer a production. If I have a philosophy, that’s it,” Bilik said. “Middle school kids are open and warm, and they learn very quickly – they’re like sponges.”
“It’s got tremendous energy,” said Bilik. “I don’t remember the kids having so much fun.”
Sasha Goldstein is a Hoover and Churchill graduate who will study scene design at Boston University next year. Bilik helped Goldstein foster a love for theater, and Goldstein returned as an assistant director. “I couldn’t wait to get here myself and do this,” Goldstein said.
Suchan, who is blind, performs in her first stage production at Hoover – she sings in the Maryland Junior All-Star Chorus and the Montgomery County Junior Honors Chorus. “I’ve loved to sing ever since I was in a music class in first grade,” Suchan said.
“The plot is a little weirder and more interesting than most plays today, I think,” said Suchan. At first, it was hard to follow. “I read the dialogue with the two Braille volumes I’ve got, and listened to the CDs of the songs [until] I knew it like the back of my hand,” Suchan said.
“I’m one of the lovesick maidens,” said Suchan. She and the other maidens are in love with Reginald Bunthorne, an aesthetic poet. “We love him, but he doesn’t love us. … He loves the milkmaid Patience.”
Eighth-grader Ashley Austin stars as Patience, who feels obligated to be unselfish in love, thus she offers to marry Bunthorne, an “aesthetic” poet. “Patience,” in fact, is a satire on the “aesthetic” school of artistic thought that reigned in 1870s and ‘80s England.
Most performers interviewed agreed that there’s a lesson or two in “Patience,” but it’s mostly entertaining and fun. “I don’t really know if there’s any moral or lesson,” said eighth-grader Stu Kushner, who plays a Dragoon solider. “It’s just a great show. You’ll like the irony of the show – and the boys chorus is the best chorus ever.”
“It’s definitely a big excuse to sing and dance,” Goldstein said.