McGinnis: ‘Foreigner’ takes the stage at the Toledo RepWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Three years ago, F. Scott Regan retired as professor emeritus from Bowling Green State University. During the course of his 25-year career, he directed numerous productions (several penned by Regan himself), supervised the formation of the Horizon Youth Theatre project and worked tirelessly on Treehouse Troupe, BGSU’s traveling children’s theater production.
But Regan has certainly not been taking it easy, now that his BGSU career has ended. Since 2008, he has continued to regularly work with the Toledo Repertoire Theatre.
“For the past two years, I have directed readings for the Edgy Rep Series and enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Toledo Rep,” Regan said in an e-mail interview.
He returns to directing on Sept. 18 with a Rep production of Larry Shue’s classic farce “The Foreigner.” The play will run through Oct. 3.
“After the Toledo Rep selected their season, I (and other potential directors) was asked to rank order their preferences. I read the plays I was not familiar with and put this play as my first choice,” Regan said.
“The Foreigner,” first performed in 1984, revolves around the story of a young Englishman who is so pathologically shy, he can’t even speak to people. His friend covers for him by telling guests at a fishing lodge he is from another country and can’t speak English. As a result, those near the supposed foreigner have no problem saying the most outrageous and scandalous things in his presence, because they think he can’t understand them, anyway.
The show played off Broadway for nearly 700 performances and has been regularly performed for more than a quarter of a century. Regan said that he believes the sympathetic people depicted in the story are key to the play’s continuing success.
“‘The Foreigner’ is a very funny play, of course, but I think the enduring popularity lies not in the clever premise and jokes but in the characters,” Regan said. “Unlike most farces, which are driven by slapstick and abnormal behavior, the author has created more complex and real people, quirky but totally believable and (with one exception) totally lovable.
“When we go to the theater and recognize part of ourselves on stage we can be moved to laughter and tears.”
Auditions for this new production took place during the summer. Regan said many of the people trying out for the show were familiar with the Rep and what was expected of auditioners, so the process went smoothly. “In this case, a relatively small number of people came so everyone had multiple opportunities to read for several parts,” he said.
Rehearsals for the show began in late July. Throughout the process, Regan said he introduced activities and discussions to help the cast get to know one another — and their characters — better.
“As with most comedies, a bit of fooling around help them explore their parts and see the possible humor. The director serves as guide as they explore movement and gesture to enhance the tensions between characters and helps be the ‘audience eye’ — helping the cast clarify for the audience what is going on,” he said.
Regan had nothing but the highest compliments for his actors. “This has perhaps been the most experienced cast that I have worked with so it has made my job easier — more of a guide than a director. They brought this experience to the production, providing their own creative solutions to the inevitable challenges that the script has presented.”
Working as a director — or a guide — benefits from Regan’s own experiences, as well, including the quarter century of work he put into BGSU Theater. Regan said both assignments were fun and challenging, in their own ways.
“As I said, the adult community theater features actors who can bring more life experience to the project. They often have more stage experience, as well, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage to a guest director. Of course, there are no artificial grades to motivate effort. Community actors are there for the love of the experience and have to balance many responsibilities in order to participate.”
Regan shows no sign of slowing down in the months to come. He will soon be departing on a trip to Peru and Ecuador, and is scheduled to direct a show for the Horizon Youth Theatre in the spring. He said he hopes audiences for “The Foreigner” come away from the show having had “a hearty laugh and a warm feeling. The play shows us flawed people who can help each other grow and change — while defeating evil.”