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The Antelope

Sparks fly on stage during psychological classic

Bella Manningham (Britney Kouma) discovers a gift which proves her husband had been lying about her forgetfulness. Kylie Schwab / Antelope Staff

Performers in the UNK Theatre department hit the stage with their production of “Gaslight” from Oct. 5-9. Set in Victorian London, the play featured the story of Bella Manningham, a young woman who is psychologically and emotionally manipulated by her husband Jack.

The term “gaslight” originated as a result of Jack Manningham’s treatment of his wife in this play. 

“The word gaslighting is very popular right now,” said director Janice Fronczak. “It’s creeping up in social media and in more films and TV shows, so I thought now’s the time. And people still do gaslight other people, which means a person trying to make another person think they’re crazy or they’re out of touch with reality by consistently undermining them.”

“Gaslight” has been on Fronczak’s list to direct for years, but she was waiting for the right time to put it on — and to cast the right couple for bringing “Gaslight” to life.

“As an actor, you have to take on those emotions yourself when you’re on stage,” said Britney Kouma, a senior theater major. “Whatever you’re doing as that character, you feel it. So every night I’m going insane, I’m having panic attacks, I’m freaking out and I’m hyperventilating. The second I’m done, I have to shake off the character and be like, ‘Nope, this isn’t me anymore.’”

Kouma, who plays Bella Manningham, said she originally got into acting as a result of growing up as a habitual liar. Kouma said fooling her parents brought her joy and helped make her a good actor.

Kouma was drawn to the character because playing a mentally insane character would be a challenge.

Her scene partner was excited to be cast as a villain for the first time after taking on past roles as comedic leads throughout college.

“The biggest challenge to play Mr. Manningham is in the first act I have to go from being this kind of standard husband that is loving towards his wife and cares about her,” said Nathaniel York, a senior theater major. “Then instantly, the facade drops. It’s like, ‘No, I am trying to make my wife go crazy.’ Once that happens, the tone of the character shifts for the rest of the play.”

Now that “Gaslight” has ended, York will design the set for another sinister production in UNK’s fall student-directed production of “The Haunting of Hill House.”

Kouma will move from her role as Bella Manningham to direct “The Haunting of Hill House,” which will show from Nov. 16-20 in the studio theater in the basement of the Fine Arts Building.

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