The Old Stone House run by the SRU History Department, gave history student Kevin Lukacs the opportunity to show his original comedic play set in the 1830s on location at the historic site.
The House is a historic site that is a museum run by student employees of SRU from May through October each year, and Lukacs, 21, a history major and docent at the Old Stone House penned the original hour-long play set during its golden age. During its heyday people would come to what was once a thriving stagecoach stop to tend to their horses or rest during their travels, according to Lukacs.
Lukacs began working at the Old Stone House during the spring semester, and after Associate Professor of History and the house’s curator, Dr. Aaron Cowan, mentioned that he wanted to expand the space’s function beyond being a place solely based upon history, he decided that showing a play there would be a good place to start. Deciding the play to perform there with the assistance of the Butler Little Theatre didn’t come without its challenges, as there aren’t many plays that fit the time period of the Old Stone House.
“Butler Little Theatre was thrilled with the idea of doing a play there and it was just finding one and that was difficult because Americans didn’t really write plays during the 1830s,” Lukacs said. “They did a lot of vaudeville, which the play does pay tribute to, so it was a lot easier to write my own.”
While the play is a work of fiction, a character based on the house’s original owner John Brown does make an appearance, but the rest of the cast are creations of Lukacs’ imagination. The play represents the time period, but takes a humorous look at Butler County and trends from the 1800s including the temperance movement, which was a time when alcohol was to be consumed in moderation.
“The Stone House: An Original One-Act Play” has had one weekend of showings thus far, and ahead of the shows slated for this weekend, audience reaction has been positive. Audience members have been responsive to the jokes and stories told by the characters, which Lukacs equates to a surreal experience.
“It’s entirely surreal how well people are receiving the play,” Lukacs said. “We did three shows this past weekend and we’ve had people come twice already.”
Another person who has had a role in making the play a success is junior art major and communication minor Austin Uram, 20, who stars as Jack, a soldier in his 20s who is on his way home from Florida. Uram was attracted to the play in part because of its setting, which gave it a sense of authenticity that a set couldn’t have.
“I loved the fact that they were using the space where the play was set as a theatre,” Uram said. “It’s been a lot of fun working in the area itself, and it helps you to get into character a lot easier.”
Uram’s character Jack is involved in a love triangle with the play’s villain, Daniel, played by Lukacs, and the play’s sole female character Juliet, played by a student from Point Park University and member of the Butler Little Theatre, Shannon Donovan.
“Jack is a nice guy, the kind that you would want your daughter to marry,” Uram said. “Jack has a woman from his past pop up in his life again, and hilarity ensues.”
For the past year, Cowan has been trying to break away from the idea that people have that the Old Stone House is solely a place where people can visit and take tours, it’s also a bridge between the university and the community. He wanted faculty and students to take an interest in coming up with an idea to get other students and members of the community involved with it, which is why he approached Lukacs.
“I knew that he was involved in community theatre and that he was also someone who did some of his own plays,” Cowan said. “I mentioned it and we talked a bit about it and I thought ‘that was that’, but he came back with this.”
The performance space is small, which makes the relationship between the actors and the audience more intimate. The audience is able to become immersed in the time period through the colorful cast of characters, according to Cowan.
Cowan hopes that in the future more plays will be able to be shown at the Old Stone House.
“This is a way for people that have been before to come back and get them engaged, and I think that’s great,” Cowan said.
The play is running Sep. 5-7 and Sep. 12-14 at 7 p.m.