Central Theatre Ensemble Performs ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’


The CWU Theatre Ensemble performs a scene in its production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” during practice on April 30. The theatre production will run May 10-12 and May 16-19 in the McConnell Auditorium. Special events such as dinners beforehand will be held on specific days.

Mary Park, Staff Reporter

The majestic gothic arches and buttresses, mesmerizing rose windows, bells ringing and stone gargoyles peering over Paris highlight the beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Starting on May 10, the Central Theatre Ensemble will perform “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a new musical directed by Dr. Terri Brown and based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the Disney animated film.

The musical is about the hunchbacked bellringer named Quasimodo, who falls in love with a beautiful Romani woman named Esmeralda and struggles to be accepted by a 15th century French society that mocks and shuns him.

Some students born in the 1990s may remember watching the Disney version as kids, but the stage version has additional songs and tackles darker themes than that of the Disney version.

The Production

Patrick Dizney is an associate chair in the theatre department who helped oversee the production and promote the show.

“It’s finally in the air,” Dizney said. “It’s like a big airplane that takes forever to take off and when it’s in the air, it’s a beautiful thing.”

According to Dizney, there are over a hundred people involved with the production, with 45 of them on stage and 60 to 80 people working off stage. Many of those involved have started working on the play since the beginning of this term in January.

“It’s a phenomenal showcase of our students’ talents,” Dizney said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

While actors spent weeks rehearsing and researching their characters, the backstage crew worked on building the world of the play. The scene shop built and painted scenery, the lighting designer planned which lights will be used, costume designers and makeup artists prepared their pieces and much more went on behind the scenes.

Scene designer Riley Allen said his department was responsible for “framing the world,” which included the platform, the railing, the flooring and the backdrops.

Allen said although they won’t recreate the cathedral on stage, they will depict some of the architectural elements such as stained glass windows, archways and brickwork.

Jerry Dougherty is the production manager, who coordinated schedules and budgets and supervised the production.

He said while the production team will do their best to put on a good show, the main goal of the theatre department is to create artists and the show is a happy byproduct.

“I try to remind people […] everytime when we get together as a big group, to practice patience and instant forgiveness and remember that the students are the product, not the show,” Dougherty said.

Erin Crocker, a senior studying theatre and specializing in design and production, is the stage manager for “The Hunchback.”  

The stage manager’s many responsibilities include making sure everyone involved in the production gets to where they need to be, that the show starts on time, is performed safely and for the exact timing of every technical piece that happens during the show.

Crocker said her favorite part of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is the music combined with the visual spectacle.

“It has some beautiful themes, a beautiful set [and] beautiful lights, and it has more choral aspect to the music than what we do normally,” Crocker said. “It’s a story that I would hope that the audience will get something out of, in the same way that we have enjoyed putting the show together.”

Main Themes

Dougherty said while the production is using the basic plot from the Disney story, the musical version “puts some teeth into some harder ideas to contemplate.”

“The plight of the Romani people, the power dynamic structure is probably the hardest storyline,” Dougherty said.

Crocker also explained there are many themes that are relevant to students on campus and to Americans as a whole.

“There’s thoughts of power, thoughts of immigration, thoughts of religious corruption in some moments,” Crocker said. “There’s conversations about sexual assault, there’s a lot of overarching themes that you don’t expect in a Disney show.”

On April 15, the world watched as a fire engulfed the cathedral and altered the Paris skyline. For many students and faculty in the CWU Theatre Department, the significance of Notre Dame grew stronger.

“[The production crew felt] the great sense of loss that… a lot of people [felt] because such an iconic piece of architecture and house of worship [had] been lost,” Dougherty said.

Steven Macias, a sophomore in musical theatre, said when the fire burned Notre Dame, the global support the cathedral received showed its importance to many people.

Macias said when Victor Hugo first wrote the book, it was to preserve the Notre Dame Cathedral.

“[He wanted] to let people know that Notre Dame doesn’t strictly belong to Paris, it belongs to everybody,” Macias said.

Dizney said the cathedral is important not just as an architectural achievement, but as a symbol for many things like community, faith and hope.

“I think it’s really worthy and relevant now for us to consider where do we put our faith today,” Dizney said. “What do we trust, what do we believe in, [and] how do we understand community in our own world?”

He said one of the most important themes in the story that is relevant today is a marginalization of a specific population based on ethnicity or what country they come from.

“The title character Quasimodo does not fit into our normal mode of how we see people,” Dizney said. “So he is persecuted, completely marginalized because of what people choose to see about him. What this show talks about is, ‘what is a monster and what is a man?’ and I think there is a duality in all of us.”

The Actors

Jackson Bouchard, a senior in musical theatre who plays Archdeacon Claude Frollo, said he prepared for his “emotionally disturbed” character by thinking about why Frollo says or acts a certain way.

“Any time you play any character on stage, you really want to be able to empathize with them and not be judgmental of their actions,” Bouchard said. “Because if you’re [judging them], then I think you’re creating a wall and a barrier that’s going to show in your performance.”

Macias, who plays Quasimodo, said it’s one of the most difficult roles that he has ever had to do.

“Not only is it challenging vocally, but it’s challenging acting-wise,” Macias said. “I watched how [silent film] actors said what they needed to say without saying a word, so I wanted to portray that in Quasimodo. So even when he’s not speaking, he’s telling you something and expressing how he feels.”

Benjamin Usher, a senior in musical theatre who plays Clopin, said he spent as much as 36 hours a week doing character research, memorizing lines and working at the scene shop. He said Victor Hugo’s novel is not just a story, but “a call to action.”

“It’s a ‘why are you being a bigot when everything that you stand for says otherwise or should say otherwise, why are you telling people that you can’t come to the church?’” Usher said. “Jesus wasn’t supposed to come to save the healthy, he was supposed to come to save the sick and if you’re saying that these people are not healthy, why are you turning them away?”

Bouchard said because Victor Hugo’s story has many themes to explore, different adaptations focus on ones that are relevant to that era. He said the play is relevant to today’s society because it deals with prejudice.

“Right now, this has so much to do with the current political context and the controversy surrounding who we should and shouldn’t allow in this country,” Bouchard said. “So I think that’ll really resonate with people in this production.”