Graduate returns to perform in mentor’s ‘Young Robin Hood’

November 30, 2009

Longtime patrons of McDaniel Theatre may recognize a familiar face during the Dec. 17-19 production of “Young Robin Hood,” an original British Pantomime written and directed by McDaniel Theatre Arts Professor Ira Domser.

On the main stage in WMC Alumni Hall, among the more than 30 student performers, is Chris DeRose ’07, in town from The Second City Chicago to play the part of Sackbutt in the slapstick-comedy sketch of Domser’s production.

DeRose can’t wait to be back working with his mentor and performing once again in Alumni Hall, if only for a five-day run of rehearsals and performances.

“I love Alumni Hall – it’s a great place to perform,” DeRose said, adding that he never missed a day without at least stopping by the heart of McDaniel theatre during his undergraduate years. “I am a little worried about only having two days to rehearse before the opening, but then it is sketch comedy and improv (improvisation).

“I do that every week here in Chicago.”

After graduation, DeRose headed for Chicago to pursue his dream of studying his art at Second City, incubator of such comedy greats as Alan Arkin, Ed Asner, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, John Belushi, John Candy, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Bonnie Hunt, Elaine May, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, Amy Sedaris and Martin Short.

“I visited Second City over spring break my senior year, and got hooked on sketch comedy and improv,” he said during a phone interview from Chicago. “I knew that was the type of theatre I wanted to do – it’s so hard-hitting and Second City is right on the pulse of what’s funny.”

He has since graduated from training programs in improv, writing and music and is now appearing with Second City ensemble Infinite Sundaes.

“Infinite Sundaes is a paid gig – a paid ensemble – but it’s the first rung of a tall ladder,” said DeRose, who auditions and performs at other theatres in addition to his job as driver and guide on Chicago’s trolley and double-decker tour buses.  “At least I have my foot in the door.”

British Pantomime provides a pitch-perfect venue for DeRose’s talents. Immensely popular and hugely profitable in England, Pantomime combines the slapstick comedy of the Marx Brothers with the off-center humor of Benny Hill and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Panto features a fairytale plot, opulent costumes, gorgeous scenery, a huge cast and lots of audience participation.

About 150 professional companies perform Panto in England, Domser says, with most of the performances in November and December for the holiday season. In fact, Panto is more popular in England than “The Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol.”

While Domser based “Young Robin Hood” on the classic story – and it is as such primarily for children – there are comedic hi-jinks and wholesome innuendo that amuse adults as well. In fact, the kids are usually enraptured, as they were with the Panto “Snow White,” performed by McDaniel students during last year’s holiday season.

“I want to put a note in the program that tells the adults to leave the kids alone – let them be British like they were with ‘Snow White,’” Domser said.

Domser discovered the genre that he says is the Disneyland of theatre during a student Jan Term trip to England several years ago.

“I feel cheated that it took me 50 years to discover Panto. It’s what theatre should be,” he said. “Panto is more of a party than a play – a party that went really well. Pure joy.”

The icing’s on the cake since DeRose is returning to campus to perform in Domser’s most recent Panto. The aspiring sketch comedian credits McDaniel for his well-rounded background as an actor. More than half of his classmates at Second City have no training as actors.

“I was in a good place as an actor when I left McDaniel,” he said, explaining that his experiences and education at the college of liberal arts and sciences have served him well.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17-18; 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 in WMC Alumni Hall. Tickets: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, students, and the McDaniel College community. For information, call the box office at 410-857-2448 or online at

A special ticket offer, “Pay What You Can” night, is scheduled for the Dec. 17 performance. For that performance only, tickets may be purchased at the door for whatever patrons can afford to pay. These tickets will go on sale at 7 p.m. that day with a limit of four tickets per party – cash and exact change only. This offer cannot be applied to previous purchases. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the regular prices.

Domser said he hopes Pay What You Can Night “will allow people who would not normally be able to afford the regular ticket prices to see the show.”

“Our goal is to make Young Robin Hood available to everyone regardless of their financial situation,” Domser said. “It’s our little gift for the holiday season.”