CEDAR RAPIDS — With opening night for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” less than three weeks away at Theatre Cedar Rapids, director Angie Toomsen is looking for ways the local institution might respond to the devastating fire Monday at the Parisian landmark.
“We’re already talking about program content,” she said. “We already were planning to include dramaturgical content about Notre Dame Cathedral and what it meant at the time as the center of Paris. But now we will probably look at that through a little bit different lens.”
Monday afternoon, she began looking on the Friends of Notre Dame organization’s website to see what avenues for help are being organized.
“People like to know how they can take action in some way,” she said. “ ... Certainly in just sharing the beauty and splendor and history of such a landmark place on Earth — that’s something I know we can do.”
She learned about the fire by text message as she was leaving a meeting Monday.
“Needless to say, our cast and our team are just devastated,” she said. “I consider it a blessing of theater that we’re charged with learning about people and places we might not otherwise. For weeks now, our minds have been focused on imaging Notre Dame Cathedral, both its grandeur, its meaning in Paris today and in Paris at that time — the gritty passageways and shadows where some of Victor Hugo’s stories take place.
“Our minds have just been imaging this place where most of us have never been and certainly never have been in this context. We’ve already fallen in love with it, because that’s just something that happens when you’re doing a play. You fall in love with the story you’re telling and the place that we’re sharing, so I think everyone is feeling close to it and very sad.”
She was planning to have a moment of reflection at Monday night’s rehearsal, where cast members who have been to the cathedral and already have been sharing their photos will continue to do so.
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She also was expecting Tuesday to be bittersweet, during the load-in for the scenery for the show, running May 3-26.
“It’s pretty eerie to be constructing something that is not literal in any way, but represents the inside of Notre Dame Cathedral,” she said. “It’s going to be kind of an eerie, probably solemn day for us, even though we have a lot of work to do. I’m just going to try to find hope in that.”
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