Masquers discuss new colonial-era farce, Savage Lands

Griffin Sendek | Photography Editor
Julie Loesch and Mia Manuppeli star as Virginia and Penelope.

Joseph Phillippi | Staff Writer


Duquesne University’s resident theatre group, the Red Masquers, have been putting on plays and musicals since 1914 — and this year is no different. The Red Masquers’ next show, Savage Lands: A Colonial Comedy, is making its world premiere Feb. 20 at 8 p.m.

The show follows the story of two sisters, Penelope and Virginia, struggling to get by in colonial Schenectady. Many hijinks and slapsticks ensue during the course of the show.

“It is a colonial farce and it takes place in pre-Revolutionary War America,” Director John E. Lane Jr. said. “There’s a cat, a turkey, it’s a farce, it’s very, very funny.”

Lane has been involved with theatre all his life, attending University of Pittsburgh for his master’s degree in theatre. Following that, he worked at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre for 18 years. Lane then worked part-time and then full time at Duquesne as a professor and he has been here since 1989.

Savage Lands was written by Timothy Ruppert, a Duquesne alum and current professor at Slippery Rock University. Lane spoke about the method he adopts when it comes to shows wherein he is able to work with the writer directly. He has known Ruppert long enough that they have a system for modifying the show to make sure it is performance level.

“We’ve been developing [Savage Lands] for about two years now. … He sends me a script and I say, ‘well we need to work on this and this,’” Lane said. “We invite some actors in to read [the script] so [we] can hear it and then he’ll go back and re-write.”

Freshman Mia Manuppeli is portraying Penelope Opensleigh/Northberry. Lane described the lead actress as “the freshman that came out of nowhere.”

“She’s strong and she’s smart and I feel like I’m myself in [this] role,” Manuppeli said regarding her character.

“Sometimes with musicals, I feel like you play larger-than-life characters and you always want to try and make them real, but with Penelope, I feel like there is something that comes natural to [portraying her]” she said.

Manuppeli has been doing theatre since middle school.

“I did dance and ballet before that,” she said. “I’ve always liked being on stage.”

Manuppeli also studied at Keystone State Music Theatre and is currently an English and history major at Duquesne.

Sophomore Michael Kirk is appearing in Savage Lands as Colonel Milton Scribbleton Charles Dallas.

“[The Colonel] is interested in [Penelope], and she’s interested in [the Colonel], but [they] are both too afraid to say anything,” Kirk said.

Kirk has been doing theatre arts since his sophomore year of high school. He is currently studying as a vocal performance major with a minor in theatre arts at Duquesne.

Kirk said that he usually auditions for Masquer shows, but this one in particular caught his eye. He, along with all of the cast and crew, have been working on this show since Jan. 19.

“The show has come a long way since we started and we’re really proud of our little cast and we hope people will enjoy it,” Kirk said.

“I’ve never been big on promoting my shows … but this is one show I’ve been telling everybody to come see,” Manuppeli said.

“Come and see it. It’s very funny, and it’s free for Duquesne students, so there’s no reason not to come,” Lane said.

Savage Lands is premiering Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. and is showing at the Genesius until Feb. 29.