The southeastern regional premiere of “A Divine Kerfuffle” was showcased at Mercer University. Here is everything you need to know.
Written by playwright H. Russ Brown, “A Divine Kerfuffle” is a comedic farce following the “divine'' Sarah Bernhardt, played by Imira Ackerson ‘23, and her talented, younger rival Eleanora Duse, played by Caylyn Kelly ‘25. Their rivalry comes to an all time high when they compete for the starring role in an up and coming new show titled "The Crumbling Biscuit.”
Brown was originally inspired to write this show after talking with a fellow director. The show was directed by theater professor Scot J. Mann at Mercer University, who is friends with Brown.
“H. Russ Brown and I are both stage combat professionals. We both are people that teach and choreograph stage combat professionally around the United States. I think it was probably 12 or 15 years ago at a workshop in Chicago where he and I were teaching. We have a very similar sense of humor, so we became friends pretty quick,” stated Mann.
“I was at a workshop and I was swashbuckling with a friend of mine, Angela Bonham-Carter. She and I were just messing around with some swashbuckling stuff and she said something about how there's just too few swashbuckling roles for women on stage. I took that as inspiration. I went home that night and I wrote out the first scene for the show,” said Brown.
Brown had started the show but did not finish writing it until years later.
“Once the pandemic hit, I suddenly had so much time on my hands. So I thought, let's just go back to my idea book and let's finish one of these plays. I stumbled across that one and I knew that I was going to have two women coming in who could handle the diva roles. That's how it came to be; it was born out of a need for more swashbuckling roles for women to look like badasses on stage,” said Brown.
Throughout the process, Brown played an integral role in helping the cast prepare for the show and how to bring these characters to life.
“We've had a lot of help, actually, because H. Russ, the writer of the play, has been doing the dialect coaching for our actors. We've been able to have conversations with him and his intentions behind the characters and understanding from a writer’s perspective what he was thinking when he wrote it,” stated Sahithi Doddaka ‘26.
Throughout the show, there are many different dialects and languages that the actors had to adopt in order to properly showcase these characters, including French, Italian, and German.
However, throughout the rehearsal process and the preparations for the show, there were a few challenges that the cast and crew had to overcome; one of the biggest was the fact that this cast and crew had never done a comedy.
“The biggest challenge has been working out the really specific comedic elements of the show. Farces are very specific types of comedy, and they require a lot of big body movement. “They're very big shows,” said Doddaka.
Another challenge was overcoming the training that they had previously worked on for fight scenes.
Mann stated, “their big challenge was fighting it, learning to do the combat choreography in character, because they've learned to do it as a skill. You don't get to just drop character to suddenly do the sword fight because you're focused on that; you have to fight in character. That's the big challenge for them.”
Mann had also mentioned how, due to the fact that this was a regional opening, there were many other directors who came out in order to scope out a potential new show for their program.
Overall, the cast and crew effortlessly performed a total of eight shows. The “divine” Mercer players were able to obtain great success with their performances and ended this semester's season off to a promising conclusion.