‘Once in a Lifetime’ brings satirical comedy to NKU


Mikki Schaffner

‘Once in a Lifetime’ is a satire that follows the journey of George, Jerry, and Mae to Hollywood in pursue of the newly invented talkies. The play premieres on Feb. 18 in NKU’s Corbett Theatre.

The transition from silent film to talkies in the mid-1930s transformed the face of the American movie industry. NKU’s theatre department is bringing this pivotal moment back to life with “Once in a Lifetime,” a satiric tale of three destitute troupers who journey to Hollywood to try their luck with the newest craze.

Written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, “Once in a Lifetime” pokes fun at the Hollywood business and each character’s’ rise to fame.

“A lot of what’s in the play about Hollywood is still true, a bunch of years later it’s still just as on target,” Director Mike King said.

King said that one of his favorite parts of directing is working with the actors, coaching them and trying to help them achieve the best possible performance they can.

“We have about 30 cast, which is a lot of people but there are actually 70 roles in the show,” King said. “Many of them are doing multiple roles and have to create different voices, postures and things for the different parts they play. That really lets them stretch their abilities.”

Sophia Dewald, a sophomore musical theatre major, said that the ensemble is doing a great job tackling the diverse roles, considering how difficult it is to perform completely unalike parts.

“The ensemble plays about three different roles, it’s crazy,” Dewald said. “You don’t want the audience seeing the same person for each part so they’ve really had to practice changing up their techniques.”

Dewald has also been challenged to transform into a character she’s not so familiar with.

Mae, one of the main characters, is very practical and has a dry, witty personality. Dewald has had to adapt to her character’s ways and push past her boundaries.

“I’m not a sarcastic person at all, so finding the punch line and delivering the comical lines has been a bit of a struggle, but it’s also been exciting to embrace a different side of myself,” Dewald said.

Along with Mae, the two other main characters, George and Jerry, travel to Hollywood to take a chance on the new opportunity of talkies.

Cody Oppel, a senior acting major, is depicting George, who’s the oblivious one in the trio. Oppel has had to ‘dumb’ himself down to showcase George’s quirky tendencies.

“George is a real sweetheart,” Oppel said. “He is the epitome of ‘ignorance is bliss.’ Throughout the play when the characters are scheming and making plans, things just go over his head. He’s just along for the ride but when he does try, things usually go his way. It’s surprising.”

The audience is in for a twist and laughs, after George, the senseless one of the group,  is carried to pinnacles of fame and fortune, becoming the man of Hollywood.

Despite the clash of opposing personalities and personas, the cast remains a strong and unified team.

“I worked in this one scene where almost everybody is on stage,” King said. “So when we went to run it, the cast spontaneously, without talking to one another, just all knew to do this same thing a third time and found the perfect spot for it. I had never seen a cast so in tune with each other that they simultaneously created this moment. I was really amazed by that and showed me they are great working with each other.”

King found inspiration from this special moment. He hopes to continue creating an environment where students feel safe enough to take chances. “If the show is the combined creativity of all, then it’s going to be much better than anything I can think of or create just by myself,” King said. “It’s all about the collaborative effort, and my goal is to get everybody working towards that.”

According to Oppel and Dewald, King has the perfect balance of directing. He puts enough emphasis on the seriousness of performing but keeps it laid back as well.

“I was expecting that it was going to be so much fun and I’ve always wanted to work with Mike,” Oppel said. “I took Shakespeare because Mike was teaching it, and I don’t really like Shakespeare. I appreciate it, but it’s really hard. I just have so much respect for that guy.”

The show premieres in NKU’s Corbett Theatre on Feb. 18 and will run until Feb. 28.

“I hope you enjoy going on this journey with the characters and that when you find your once in a lifetime chance that you pursue it and try to make it happen,” King said.