How many lives can you live at one time? Theophilus North might be able to answer that question. The hero of Thornton Wilder’s 1973 novel —Wilder scholars continue to debate how much of it was autobiographical — is a young schoolteacher whose big dreams lead to multiple schemes.
“He ends up in Newport, R.I., because he wants to find adventure,” explained Andy Callis, who is directing Matthew Burnett’s dramatization of “Theophilus North” for Lansing Community College’s Summer Stage Under the Stars Festival.
“Throughout most of the play he thinks that adventure will be in Europe or Cairo, some great place. He wants also to be nine different professions: a saint, an architect, an actor, a rascal, a lover — things like that.”
As it turns out, excitement is not in short supply in the seemingly laid-back, luxurious parlors and playgrounds of Newport, where North (Devon Faught) becomes embroiled in the lives of the wealthy and the working-class, opening minds, revitalizing spirits and saving impetuous young lovers from acting hastily.
Most of the “Theophilus” cast is made up of students from LCC’s second semester Theatre Studio class, and Callis isn’t the only one who’s been giving them guidance.
“One of the great things about this show is that the playwright makes himself available for productions to speak to the actors,” Callis said. “(Burnett) had a Skype session with our students, which was really nice and invaluable in terms of answering questions.”
Callis, who calls himself a Wilder fan, finds some similarities between “Theophilus” and Wilder’s most famous play, “Our Town.”
Theophilus “thinks he’s stuck wasting his life away in a nowhere town,” Callis said. “But, in a way, it becomes like ‘Our Town.’ The theme is to learn to accept love in the here and now. The adventure is where you are, not in the future; life should be lived right now.”
Lansing Community College Summer Stage Under the Stars Festival in the Amphitheater
8 p.m. Wednesday, July 18 through Sunday, July 22