Communique: Thalian Association Stages WWII "Mr. Roberts" On The Battleship North Carolina

Jul 5, 2017

The Thalian Association and Friends of the Battleship have joined forces to present the classic play, Mr. Roberts. The show, which is set almost entirely on a ship in World War II, is staged by director Chandler Davis on the fantail of the Battleship North Carolina. The show runs Thursdays through Sundays through July 23; showtime is 8:00 for all performances. Tickets are available online and at the Battleship. Listen to Chandler Davis and Thalian Association Executive Director Susan Habas talk about the show above and see the transcript below. 

Susan Habas (L) and Chandler Davis
Credit WHQR/gg

Gina: This is Communique from WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina. I'm Gina Gambony.  

Chandler Davis became the artistic director of Thalian Association a year ago and she's finally directing for the organization. She's been at the helm of a classic play from 1945 called Mr. Roberts. I spoke with Chandler and Thalian Association's Executive Director, Susan Habas.

One of the things I found out about the play nearly all action takes place on a backwater cargo ship, the USS Reluctant, that sails from "apathy to tedium with occasional side trips to monotony and ennui." 

Chandler: Yeah, yeah.

Susan: I.e., it's boring on a cargo ship. 

Chandler: The crew haven't been let off for 14 months. The captain's not allowing them liberty. So they've been stuck on a boat for over a year. It's like being in prison.

Susan: But now they're docked off an island with a Naval Hospital and nurses. 

Chandler: Captain Morton, who's played by Stuart Pike, he's the bad guy. I think he's resentful, he calls Roberts a college boy a lot. I think he grew up in a different situation than Roberts did and he's going on a power trip and he doesn't know how to showcase his authority unless it's beating someone down and telling them to do something and showing that he's right, and he really gets off on picking on this cruel and letting them know that he's in charge. Which is a horrible way to manage people. And this whole crew is just looking at Mr. Roberts, he's their cargo officer. He's the one who deals with them directly. So it turned into a little bit of a power struggle between Roberts and the captain.

And the captain basically says--Roberts, he's not going to get off that ship, you know as long as the crew was following him and not following the captain. And Roberts has to kind of make a deal with the devil, so to speak, to protect his crew and give them the liberty they deserve. You know because the captain's a jerk.

I like the show a lot because there's a lot of physical comedy. But then there's these really intense scenes with the Captain and Roberts, and then you know there's a lot of emotional stuff talking about the war and the people who are involved in it. So it's nice, it runs the gamut through the emotions.  Gina: While Susan's been working for over a year to plan the logistics of this show with the Battleship, Chandler just started dealing with the actual staging.Chandler: The fantail is huge, it's been interesting in staging it and it is outdoors. We were just there on Friday. It was my first time having the actors out there and I was worried that I had spaced stuff out too much because we've been rehearsing at the CAC. But it looks really cool. I mean, they're outside on the ship so it's kind of crazy.  Susan: And if it rains or if it's just simply too hot, if there's any kind of bad weather, we will move inside the wardroom which is a newly renovated space inside the Battleship that can seat 150 people. One thing that everybody has been so filled with trepidation about is the heat on the battleship because it's going to be hot. It's summer... Wilmington. Yeah. The Battleship purchased a new cooling system called the Power Breezer. There are these huge fans that blow mist. They use them in the military and in large stadiums, and it reduces the ambient air temperature 27 degrees. It was fabulous last Friday night on the Battleship. Chandler: The mist is so... I don't know if "fine" is the right word, but by the time it hits you, there's no moisture. So we can keep it on and I'm not worried about it hitting the actors. Gina:  You've got NASA-grade mist.  Susan: That's right. NASA-grade mist.  Gina: Chandler Davis and Susan Habas from the Thalian Association.  The cast includes Woody Stefl as Mr. Roberts, Stuart Pike as Captain Morton, Jeff Hidek as Ensign Pulver, Joseph Renton as Doc, rounded out by Mark Deese, Aaron Johnson, Jonathan Wallin, Jordan Hathaway, Joseph Angel, Mike Thompson, Charles Calhoun, and Sydney Smith Martin.