×

StageCoach remembers Titanic at 100th anniversary

A century ago, when passengers boarded the Titanic for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, they had little idea that the class of ticket they purchased might determine whether they lived or died.

The issue of class distinction and how it contributed to the loss of lives during the ship’s sinking looms large in “Titanic,” a musical based on the ship’s ill-fated crossing that will be performed by StageCoach Productions at the Janice B. Streeter Theater in Nashua this weekend.

“It’s a big thing in the script because it was a very large thing in the determination of who survived and who did not,” director Steven Harper said.

Of those who perished, he explained, the majority were third class passengers, who were locked in their section of the ship below deck so they wouldn’t interfere with the evacuation of the first class passengers.

“One would think it was women and children first,” Harper said. “Well, not really. It was first class women and children first. And then second class.”

The Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for about half the people onboard. In spite of the life-or-death nature of the situation, lifeboats were launched before they had been filled to capacity.

“There were dozens of boats that left the ship half full,” Harper said, because they didn’t want to mix classes.

Once the time to officially evacuate third class arrived, he said, there were no more boats and the ship was tilting, causing the lower decks to fill with water.

The morality of the evacuation plan is questioned in a scene between Captain E.J. Smith, played by Bob Frasca, and the Titanic’s designer, Thomas Andrews, played by Stuart Harmon.

“The captain makes a conscious decision not to send anyone down to get the third class,” Harper said, “because he’s afraid of the panic that would ensue on deck.”

Andrews accuses the captain of playing God and deciding who will live or die. The captain counters that God will ultimately decide.

Andrews’ rebuttal encapsulates the class issues at work in the musical and on the actual Titanic: “God seems to be favoring the first class because they’re closer to the lifeboats.”

The distinctions between the classes are evident not only in how passengers were evacuated, but in their reasons for sailing on the Titanic in the first place. David Cote, who plays the ship’s owner, J. Bruce Ismay, and Harper both agreed that for the first class passengers, the Titanic’s Atlantic crossing was a luxurious new experience akin to a pleasure cruise.

“One of the things that was important to J. Bruce Ismay about the Titanic was how it was marketed,” Cote said, explaining how Ismay had the ship designed specifically to meet the needs – and then some – of his first class passengers.

To that end, “he only interacts primarily with the captain and Andrews, the designer, and the first class passengers, to make them happy and to market the ship well,” Cote said.

In the play, the second class passengers’ reasons for sailing are somewhat overshadowed by their desire for upward mobility. Cote referenced the song “First Class Roster,” sung by Lynda Aramento’s character Alice Beane, which highlights the first class passengers and their accomplishments.

“She’s a second class passenger,” he said, of Alice Beane. “What do they want? They want to be first class passengers.”

For the third class passengers, traveling on the Titanic was an exciting experience, but it was only the first step to something much bigger – immigrating to America.

“It wasn’t about the prestige and all that stuff,” said Caity Glover, who plays third class passenger Kate McGowan. “It was about adventure and a new life.”

Glover’s character is unique in that she’s a composite of several women who traveled in third class on the Titanic rather than a historically identifiable individual.

“She is very representative of the third class female immigrant passengers,” Glover said.

According to Glover, although third class accommodations were nowhere near as fancy as those in first and second class, they were still superior to third class on other ships at that time.

“They were thrilled that they got food and heat and light,” she said. “Even being on the bottom of the boat was the greatest honor these people had experienced.”

The ship’s design kept third class accommodations separate from first and second, making the evacuation the first time all three classes (with a limited representation from third class) are interacting in the same space. Before this scene, however, an unusual overlap between first and third class takes place through the doubling of roles.

“The first class passengers all double as third class passengers,” Harper said, citing Benjamin Guggenheim as an example.

“Guggenheim is a first class passenger, one of the richest men in the world. As a third class passenger, he actually sings, ‘When I get to America, I want to be a millionaire,’” he said.

“It’s fascinating to watch the juxtaposition of actor as first class passenger, actor as third class passenger. It’s doubled in a very specific way so that we see that dichotomy – people who make it and people who want to make it.”

It’s common knowledge that many of the people onboard the Titanic ultimately did not make it, but Harper believes the characters and their stories and relationships will hold the audience’s interest in spite of the play’s obvious ending.

“When it becomes less about a boat sinking and more about the human beings on the boat and how they deal with it, it becomes much more interesting,” he said.

Teresa Santoski can be reached at 594-6466 or tsantoski@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Santoski on Twitter (@Telegraph_TS).

StageCoach remembers Titanic at 100th anniversary

A century ago, when passengers boarded the Titanic for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, they had little idea that the class of ticket they purchased might determine whether they lived or died.

The issue of class distinction and how it contributed to the loss of lives during the ship’s sinking looms large in “Titanic,” a musical based on the ship’s ill-fated crossing that will be performed by StageCoach Productions at the Janice B. Streeter Theater in Nashua this weekend.

“It’s a big thing in the script because it was a very large thing in the determination of who survived and who did not,” director Steven Harper said.

Of those who perished, he explained, the majority were third class passengers, who were locked in their section of the ship below deck so they wouldn’t interfere with the evacuation of the first class passengers.

“One would think it was women and children first,” Harper said. “Well, not really. It was first class women and children first. And then second class.”

The Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for about half the people onboard. In spite of the life-or-death nature of the situation, lifeboats were launched before they had been filled to capacity.

“There were dozens of boats that left the ship half full,” Harper said, because they didn’t want to mix classes.

Once the time to officially evacuate third class arrived, he said, there were no more boats and the ship was tilting, causing the lower decks to fill with water.

“To try and get them out at this point was futile,” Harper said.

The morality of the evacuation plan is questioned in a scene between Captain E.J. Smith, played by Bob Frasca, and the Titanic’s designer, Thomas Andrews, played by Stuart Harmon.

“The captain makes a conscious decision not to send anyone down to get the third class,” Harper said, “because he’s afraid of the panic that would ensue on deck.”

Andrews accuses the captain of playing God and deciding who will live or die. The captain counters that God will ultimately decide.

Andrews’ rebuttal encapsulates the class issues at work in the musical and on the actual Titanic: “God seems to be favoring the first class because they’re closer to the lifeboats.”

The distinctions between the classes are evident not only in how passengers were evacuated, but in their reasons for sailing on the Titanic in the first place.

David Cote, who plays the ship’s owner, J. Bruce Ismay, and Harper both agreed that for the first class passengers, the Titanic’s Atlantic crossing was a luxurious new experience akin to a pleasure cruise.

“One of the things that was important to J. Bruce Ismay about the Titanic was how it was marketed,” Cote said, explaining how Ismay had the ship designed specifically to meet the needs – and then some – of his first class passengers.

To that end, “he only interacts primarily with the captain and Andrews, the designer, and the first class passengers, to make them happy and to market the ship well,” Cote said.

In the play, the second class passengers’ reasons for sailing are somewhat overshadowed by their desire for upward mobility. Cote referenced the song “First Class Roster,” sung by Lynda Aramento’s character Alice Beane, which highlights the first class passengers and their accomplishments.

“She’s a second class passenger,” he said, of Alice Beane. “What do they want? They want to be first class passengers.”

For the third class passengers, traveling on the Titanic was an exciting experience, but it was only the first step to something much bigger – immigrating to America.

“It wasn’t about the prestige and all that stuff,” said Caity Glover, who plays third class passenger Kate McGowan. “It was about adventure and a new life.”

Glover’s character is unique among the cast in that she’s a composite of several women who traveled in third class on the Titanic rather than a historically identifiable individual.

“She is very representative of the third class female immigrant passengers,” Glover said.

According to Glover, although third class accommodations were nowhere near as fancy as those in first and second class, they were still superior to third class on other ships at that time.

“They were thrilled that they got food and heat and light,” she said. “Even being on the bottom of the boat was the greatest honor these people had experienced.”

The ship’s design kept third class accommodations separate from first and second, making the evacuation the first time all three classes (with a limited representation from third class) are interacting in the same space. Before this scene, however, an unusual overlap between first and third class takes place through the doubling of roles.

“The first class passengers all double as third class passengers,” Harper said, citing Benjamin Guggenheim as an example.

“Guggenheim is a first class passenger, one of the richest men in the world. As a third class passenger, he actually sings, ‘When I get to America, I want to be a millionaire,’” he said.

“It’s fascinating to watch the juxtaposition of actor as first class passenger, actor as third class passenger. It’s doubled in a very specific way so that we see that dichotomy – people who make it and people who want to make it.”

It’s common knowledge that many of the people onboard the Titanic ultimately did not make it, but Harper believes the characters and their stories and relationships will hold the audience’s interest in spite of the play’s obvious ending.

“When it becomes less about a boat sinking and more about the human beings on the boat and how they deal with it, it becomes much more interesting,” he said.

Teresa Santoski can be reached at 594-6466 or tsantoski@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Santoski on Twitter (@Telegraph_TS).