An Enemy of the People – Community ensemble builds more than characters

An Enemy of the People – Community ensemble builds more than characters

By Kelly Armstrong

Author’s Note: This is the third in a series that will be showcasing some of what went on behind the scenes in Bristol Riverside Theatre’s spring production “An Enemy of the People”. The focus of the series is not only to show what goes on in the production but to take a look at the groups and individuals behind the act and how it brings them together as a community.
You walk into the theatre and you wonder if the play has already started.

On a stage lit up like the morning sunrise you see groups of people scurrying about the stage. One young lady swings a basket on her hip as she walks from person to person greeting each one with a bright smile.

Two elderly women sweep across the stage, arm in arm, indulging each other in the latest gossip. They pass by a nicely dressed man, who looks like he’s just taking in the morning, and maybe trying to get the attention of his love interest.

It’s prologues like these that really show off the efforts of the community ensemble in Bristol Riverside Theatre’s production of “An Enemy of the People” and the work they put into building their characters to make the production a more realistic experience.

From the beginning of the production, the community ensemble was encouraged by the directors to not just play a character, but to really build the characters they were given into their own people.

Keith Baker, the artistic director at Bristol Riverside Theatre said to the community members during a workshop that if the members did not get into character, the audience will have a harder time immersing themselves in the play.

But the community members didn’t seem to have too much trouble giving these side characters some life.

Rocco Angelastro, 16, who is playing Eilif, Dr. Stockmann’s older son, said he has gotten inspiration for his character through his facade of nonchalance.

During the play, Angelastro said he plays the character who doesn’t let things affect him until they get personal in ostracising his fictional dad from the community.

“He loves his family and he would do anything to protect his family. He doesn’t like to show his emotions but if he gets worked up, he lashes out. He wants everyone to know ‘Don’t mess with my family, because you’ll feel my wrath’,” said Angelastro.

Even the community members that played characters for comic relief had tuned their interpretations to a fine pitch. Some, such as Richard Pine, learned a lot more while playing their characters.

Pine, who plays Peterson, the drunkard, said that his character started out as almost a caricature, but with time has turned into a person many may not give the chance to see.

“When I play Peterson I think the audience wouldn’t get that this is a man who has a job, pays taxes, who, perhaps at one point, had a family. A man who is down and out through circumstance and not just how they have always been,” said Pine.

To many of the community members, it’s not just about playing a part- Rather, it’s about being a part of the community they are creating in “An Enemy of the People

Kelly Armstrong is a junior at Temple University studying Public Relations.
She has written for several local publications including The Bucks County Courier Times and Levittown Now. Other than writing, Kelly enjoys reading, knitting, martial arts and baking desserts.