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Director John Dennis previews "The Royal Family".
Ed Dodd | Communications & University Relations

"The Royal Family" makes Shaver Theatre home

It’s a story about fame, fortune and a family dedicated to Broadway acting. “The Royal Family” premiered on Broadway in the late 1920s but has now found itself on the newly renovated stage at Shaver Theatre. 

Set in the lavish apartment of the Cavendish family, “The Royal Family” is said to be a satire based on the Barrymore family of famous actors. The matriarch of the family, Fanny Cavendish, wants to continue acting but is no longer the woman she used to be. Her wish to return to the stage alarms her family: her daughter Julie, her son Tony, her brother Herbert Dean and her sister-in-law Kitty Dean.


"The Royal Family" is the story of life in the spotlight. The production runs through Sunday, Sept. 27.
Photo by Eddy Perez | Communications & University Relations  

Julie, perhaps the most dramatic of the Cavendish group, is one of the leading characters of the play. Julie is thinking about retiring from the theatre, when her old boyfriend arrives, adding a twist to the plot. Josephine Hall, a second year graduate student in acting, is playing the role of Julie. Hall said the dramatic nature of Julie was a challenge in preparing for the production.  

“I’ve never played any role that is quite so overtly theatrical,” she said. “The drama in the lives of these people is not limited to the stage, as we see in this reveal of their home life.”  

Hall has been working in theatre professionally for 20 years. She spent her summer working with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Richard III” and “Scapin.” Hall said getting to know the personality of her character was important in order to give her life.  

“It’s a particular challenge to always remember to find the human quality of these people,” she said. “It’s easy to get lost in the theatrics, but if there is no heart and soul at the center of these people, then no one will care about them.”  

Hall said the natural behavior of the Cavendish family is interesting because they are a group of people who are so used to being watched all the time.  

“These people change on a dime and go from one extreme to another in a heartbeat,” she said. “They don’t know how not to perform. Their behavior is so instinctively interesting, beautiful and totally not forced in any way.”

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The story of each Cavendish family member is unique. In a way, each character tells a different side of life as a Hollywood performer. Some of them are already in the spotlight, such as Julie and her brother Tony. Herbert and Kitty Dean tell the other side of acting—trying to find the big break. 

“The Royal Family” was written by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. Professor Emeritus John Dennis is directing the Swine Palace production. Dennis has directed several productions, which have been nationally recognized. His work at LSU includes “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Fool for Love,” “The Balcony Scene” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” among many others.  

Hall said there are several scenes in the play she enjoys performing, including one with Fanny where Julie reverts back to her childhood.  

“I have a great scene with Yohance Miles, whose character literally sweeps Julie off her feet; always fun to play,” she said. “At the end of Act II, when I lose it and go crazy…well those scenes are fun to play, too.”  

Hall said the audience will enjoy the production because of the human connections they see on stage.  

“It is funny and heartwarming, over the top and extravagant and incredibly moving as well,” she said. “People will enjoy seeing family life and relationships reflected in a far from normal family life.”  

Shaver Theatre is located in the Music & Dramatic Arts Building on Dalrymple Drive. “The Royal Family” runs through Sunday, Sept. 27. Tickets can be purchased at www.swinepalace.org.

Holly Ann Phillips | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
September 2009