Rockwood interprets ‘Bell, Book and Candle’Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
University of Toledo theater veteran Jennifer Rockwood’s latest play literally puts her leads under the bewitching spell of love.
“Bell, Book and Candle,” written by John van Druten, opens Nov. 4 at The Toledo Repertoire Theatre.
“It’s about a woman who bewitches a man into falling in love with her,” Rockwood said. “It’s about the spell one is under when one first falls in love.”
The play debuted on Broadway in the 1950s and was made into a movie starring Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart.
“It’s very sexy and cute and sweet, but we’ve modernized it and brought it up to date,” said Rockwood, who in addition to directing serves as UT’s assistant dean at the College of Innovative Learning and the director of the First Year Experience program.
Every person in her cast attended UT, Rockwood said. Lead Kate Abu-Absi is director of the Arts Living and Learning Community and has performed with several of the actors before including male lead Matthew Gretzinger.
“It’s a great gang of actors who really get each other,” Rockwood said.
Rockwood became interested in theater in high school.
“I ran away with the theater when I was like 17 and never looked back,” she said with a laugh. Rockwood went on to teach theater for 29 years at UT before moving into an administrative position. She estimated she has directed about 70 plays.
“I live, breathe and eat all sides of the classroom and all sides of the stage,” Rockwood said.
Earlier this year, she directed a reading of a play she wrote, “Watershed,” and is currently reworking it. She is planning a new play for the spring, potentially with her own theater company.
Part of what Rockwood loves about directing is the ability to interpret plays differently each time. In “Romeo and Juliet,” she said, “some people might put emphasis on the love of Romeo and Juliet, some people might put emphasis on the fact that they’re up against the parents and the history of young love. That’s the cool thing about doing plays over and over and having people do things differently.”
Directing a love story like “Bell, Book and Candle” has its challenges. “That’s been the part I’ve had to delicately direct and my actors have had to be fearless and not giggling all the time,” Rockwood said. “I like to have fun and not take myself too seriously … I like it to be a work of joy and not pain,” she said.
Theater also gives Rockwood a chance to express herself during time off from her “wacky” schedule.
“I have an artistic outlet as well as the stuff I’m doing administratively,” she said.
Rockwood encourages community involvement in the Toledo art scene, especially theater.
“Community theater has a great place in a city to keep theater alive and out front. My goal in life is always to get more people to come to the theater and enjoy it,” she said. Her husband, John Rockwood, a photographer, musician and artist, contributes to that scene and created two paintings shown onstage during the play.
“Bell, Book and Candle” is at The Toledo Repertoire Theatre Nov. 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Visit toledorep.org or call (419) 243-9277 for more information. Adult tickets are $18, senior tickets are $16, students 12 and younger tickets at $5, students 13 and older are $10 and groups of 10 or more guests are $15.