STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
“An Enemy of the People,” a classic play by Henrik Ibsen performed at Bristol Riverside Theatre (BRT), explores if a man is a whistleblower or a traitor. It’s set in the 1800s, but resonates today, producers say. The story: When Dr. Stockmann discovers a possible toxic contamination endangering the town’s sole industry, his brother, the Mayor, launches a counter attack that threatens to tear their community, and family, apart.
What makes the BRT production unique — professional actors tell this classic tale alongside members of the community.
A few months ago, BRT held auditions for the Community Ensemble. People with an interest in participating — with no acting experience required — were invited to try out. After initial auditions and call backs, a group of locals were chosen.
Charles Acosta, of Levittown, was one of the lucky ones selected. He plays the postman, alternating that role with Steven Ciceron, of Burlington, N.J.
Acosta originally began taking acting lessons about a year ago to help with his professional life as a sales department project manager. Originally from the Dominican Republic and a Spanish speaker, Acosta thought it would help him to improve his diction and speech. He also thought it would help him be more confident in general.
While in the class, his teacher told him he has some acting talent. Acosta also discovered that he likes performing, especially in theater.
“I like the reward of applause in the moment,” he said.
He was nervous during his audition and the call back, but he remembered what his teacher told him: “You have to breathe,” he said. Acosta let out a deep sigh of relief and excitement when he received the email saying he had been cast as the postman.
The postman has a few lines and is part of an integral scene featuring a community meeting. Acosta is happy for whatever he gets to do as he’s “paying his dues” as an actor, he said.
Ciceron is happy to be cast as well. He has some acting experience, with local and community theater, commercials, TV, and film. When he’s not acting, he’s selling and fixing up homes.
As someone who knows what fun being a performer can be, Ciceron thinks having a Community Ensemble is a great idea.
“It’s giving people an experience to be in theater,” he said. “They’re living it and feeling it.”
Like Acosta, Ciceron likes the immediate feedback theater provides.
“I like the applause. It makes me feel good,” he said. “It feels like I contributed something.”
And both men are making new friends. Co-director Amy Kaissar had the ensemble participate in exercises and activities at the beginning of rehearsals to help them gel as a group. Since they’re supposed to be friends and neighbors, that was important, but it’s nice that everyone is getting to know one another.
“I like the group a whole lot,” Ciceron said. “I feel like I know everyone. And now everybody knows I like chocolate, so they bring me chocolate. It’s fun.”
As for the play, Ciceron thinks that audiences should see this classic for several reasons.
“He’s a great writer — Ibsen. And the way it’s done, it’s a drama, but there are comedic parts,” he said. “Anybody can enjoy this particular production.”
“It’s the 1800s and the costumes and the setting are amazing,” he said. “It’s great.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Enemy of the People”
When: Previews May 12-13; opens May 14; runs through May 31.
Where: Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol.
Tickets: Previews $31-$35; $36-$46 with discounts available for students, groups and military personnel
Info.: Call (215) 785-0100 or visit www.brtstage.org.