This winter, Elon University’s department of performing arts “You Can’t Take it With You” explores what it means to be an individual in a world that urges us to conform.

A classic comedy written by an incredibly funny playwriting pair, "You Can't Take it With You" follows the relationship of Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby, and the union of their two delightfully dysfunctional families.

Department Chair, Professor of Performing Arts, and Director Fred Rubeck leads the artistic team in bringing new life to Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's timeless production. 

The show was carefully selected by the department faculty with hopes of providing opportunities for both actors and designers to expand their abilities. Already, two weeks into production, sophomore Jacqueline Silva andjunior Daniel Roth have stretched out of their comfort zones as actors and settled into their positions of assistant directors.

"We're responsible for helping out Fred with whatever he sees fit, whatever he needs throughout the process," Silva said. "Whatever he needs, we're there for him."

Roth, who has stage combat experience, works with actors on staging falls, and also spends time coaching two characters in the show who speak in a Russian accent. 

"I'm still planning on acting and performing, but this is really the chance to experiment with directing," Roth said.

But more experience means more opportunity for growth, and Rubeck seems to be the ideal director to nurture their skill sets.

"I am so convinced that he is a certified genius," Silva said. "He just sees things and thinks of things. He'll think and find a solution before we even have the chance to process what he's said. It's insane."

"You Can't Take it With You" is an ensemble cast show, which means that each character is of relative equal importance to the story. Senior Austin Larkin plays Paul Sycamore, the childlike father of Alice. Larkin believes the jumble of characters and ensemble is what makes the show special.

Nicole Bloom as Alice Sycamore and Tanner Callicutt as Tony Kirby. Photo by Deirdre Kronschnabel.

"We all work and play off one another," Larkin said. "I think the audience falls in love with every character in very different ways."

Chip Johnson, adjunct professor of performing arts,   revives his role of Grandpa after a 16-year interlude, when he and Rubeck last performed the show. Not only is this his second time playing Grandpa, but even earlier in his acting career, Johnson played the male lead, Tony Kirby.

Unlike fall- or spring-season shows put on by the department of performing arts, Winter Term productions provide a challenging and unique platform for Johnson and the student actors.

"We are going at warp speed," Johnson said. "We don't have as much time, but the time is so concentrated that we're all really focused on telling this story."

Rehearsals go from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. almost every day, and the constant expenditure of energy can be exhausting. With such a short time frame, there are only about two weeks to get everything running smoothly before tech rehearsal, and "You Can't Take it With You" is a three-act show.

Younger crowds will appreciate the vibrancy of the show even amid some of the more dated references.

Senior George Whitaker, who plays the character Donald, is sure college students will also be able to identify with many of the characters, especially college-aged Tony and Alice, the leading couple.

"We all have those moments where our mom or dad embarrasses us in front of our friends," Whitaker said.

Mary Nickson rehearses for Friday's opening night. Photo by Deirdre Kronschnabel.

While on stage, sophomore Claire Lord’s character portrays the antithesis of the play's message. Lord, who plays Mrs. Miriam Kirby, summarized the show with an unmistakable enthusiasm and sharp clarity.

"When this life is over, it doesn’t matter how much money you make. It doesn’t matter what you did. It doesn't really matter what you accomplished," Lord said. "It matters what kind of a person you are. All the other stuff — you can't take it with you."

Even if a reference goes over a head or two, Rubeck is confident that "You Can't Take it With You" will nonetheless serve its intended purpose.

"Whether Shakespeare or Jane Austin or Kaufman and Hart, great works of art survive because they are indeed relevant,” Rubeck said. “The point of the play is not to educate about the life of this family in the 1930s, but to reveal human truths that apply to any age."

"You Can't Take it With You" will be performed Jan. 20-24 and Feb.1-4 at Roberts Studio Theatre in Scotts Studio at Arts West. 

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