SMTD presents ‘Patience’ in the park


Ayman Ishimwe

The cast of “Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride” poses at the final scene. SMTD performed in the lawn of Varner Hall.

After eight months of preparation, Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD) kicked off its outdoor presentation of “Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride” by Gilbert and Sullivan on Thursday, June 24 in the Varner Hall Courtyard. 

The two-act comic opera satirizes elements of British culture such as love, military culture and (most notably) the Aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century. The Aesthetic movement — characterized by “art for art’s sake” — focused on beauty or aesthetic values rather than social or moral themes in art.

In the opera, Bunthorne pretends to be an Aesthetic to impress women, but really seeks the heart of titular character Patience, a village milkmaid. However, Patience is not charmed by Bunthorne, and later, an actual Aesthetic, Grosvenor, is introduced.

“‘Patience’ is a wonderful show to do following the pandemic,” said Dr. Drake Dantzler, director and assistant professor of voice at OU. “The light-hearted fare and tuneful show are so joyous and exuberant that you can’t help but be happy. To be able to work on this show and then present it to the audience after such a difficult year is a heart-warming opportunity.”

Besides its comedic relief, “Patience” suited the outdoor venue.  In order to abide COVID-19 safety measures and social distancing protocol, students performed on a 72-foot outdoor stage. Chairs were stationed in the grass as the audience sat among the trees. 

“Both acts take place outdoors in the show,” said Kerro Knox 3, scenic designer and associate director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at OU. “The first [act] is outside the castle, and then we mov into the woods later on, so we  had a theme that works.”

While the show’s outdoor setting made it easy to transition theatrically, the venue posed a new set of obstacles to the cast and crew — particularly sonic issues. Vocalists had the added challenge of projecting great distances over the orchestra in an acoustically difficult environment while competing with other sounds like car horns and airplanes.

The weather was another challenge to the show, “namely wind, rain, heat and for this one, caterpillars!” Dantzler said.

Thursday’s performance had some drizzle before the show, but crew members mopped the stage in time for the 5 P.M. start. The seats at Thursday’s performance were filled.

“We’re hungry to perform and the audience is hungry to see a show, any kind of show,” Knox said. “This is fun, this is as good as anything we do without compromises for it. We made the outdoors an asset.” 

However, due to the inclement weather, Friday and Saturday’s performances were cancelled. The crew instead used the time to restage the show in the Recital Hall for rescheduled performances on Monday and Tuesday. 

Indoor performances were allowed at 50% capacity and only attendees who were unvaccinated were required to wear masks and social distance. Due to the change, more tickets were available than at the outdoor venue. 

“The pandemic is challenging for everyone, but the students showed tremendous resolve and energy in creating a show in this environment,” Dantzler said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them and their work.”