news-category: Performing Arts

Gardner-Webb Theatre Presents ‘Private Lives’ Nov. 17-20 in Millennium Playhouse

Marcus Byrd and Ellie Brinson practice for Private Lives. Photos by Danielle Billups / GWU Photo Staff

Senior Markus Byrd Prepares for His Final Performance on the GWU Stage

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Senior Markus Byrd, a regular in Gardner-Webb University Theatre productions, will perform his final role on the GWU stage as Elyot in “Private Lives.” The 1930 play, written by Noël Coward, will be presented on Nov. 17-19 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 20 at 2:30 p.m. in the Millennium Playhouse, 141 S. Main St., in Boiling Springs.

Byrd, a theatre arts major, has been in eight productions at GWU since his freshman year. He was assistant director for last year’s production of “Men on Boats” and wrote and directed one of the plays in the “Night of Student-Written Productions” in October 2021. “Though, I enjoyed that process, acting is where my real joy lies,” Byrd noted. “I’ve been blessed with the chance to have roles in productions such as ‘The Dumb Waiter,’ ‘The Last Five Years,’ ‘Eurydice,’ ‘Noises Off,’ ‘Hedda Gabler,’ and much more.”

Joining Byrd will be other veterans of the GWU stage, Faith Augustine and Elie Brinson, and newcomers, Ines Ghellab and James Fleckenstein.

James Fleckenstein, a newcomer to the GWU stage, and Faith Augustine, a veteran of GWU Theatre, portray Victor and Amanda in Private Lives.

In this classic comedy of manners, Amanda (Augustine) and Elyot (Byrd) are surprised to find themselves in the same hotel. Unknowingly, they have booked adjoining rooms while on honeymoons with their respective spouses, Victor (played by Fleckenstein) and Sybil (played by Brinson). Amanda and Elyot are forced to face their true feelings for each other. Ghellab is Amanda’s French maid, Louise.

Ghellab said her character becomes irritated with the actions of her client, Amanda. The language and dialect are no problem for Ghellab, who is from France. She is at Gardner-Webb this semester working as a French Teaching Assistant through the Fulbright Scholar program, a prestigious worldwide educational exchange program.

Ghellab has always wanted to give theater a try, so when a student told her about the French part, she decided to audition. “I was curious to know how it worked to be in a play,” she shared. “Now it is the perfect time.”

Byrd describes his character as a crass, but upright and traditional British gentleman from the 1930s. “Behind his crass exterior and his desire to preserve etiquette in public at all costs, there’s a man who’s grown truly bored,” Byrd reflected. “Elyot is a man whose life is devoid of adventure, but even in the most exciting moments, he can’t help but feel bored and longing for something more than life has given him up to this point.”

Byrd observed that it’s fun to explore the upper-class British dialect. “But more than that, I love the people I get to work alongside, and the joy I get from exploring a character like this with such a hardworking cast,” he asserted. “People should come see ‘Private Lives’ because more than anything, they’ll walk away having seen a play they may never get the chance to see again.”  

Augustine, a senior theatre arts major with a minor in writing, has performed in five plays at Gardner-Webb. She said her character, Amanda, is a strong-willed, twice-married woman with a propensity for wild behavior. “While maintaining proper elegance, she still finds ways to speak her mind and take control of any circumstance,” Augustine expounded. “She calls herself unreliable and is inclined to act irrationally or fly off the handle, leaving the male characters uncertain despite her glamorous appearance.”

She added that she likes the part, because her character is not the helpless, submissively sweet woman from the 1930s. “In nearly all of her scenes, she is given control, not only verbally, but physically too,” Augustine related. “I also love the fact that she’s genuinely comedic and not because she said ‘something unintelligent.’ Amanda is the embodiment of true comedy.”

Augustine encourages the campus community to make plans to attend the production. “It will provide lots of good laughs and one of the most ironic storylines ever encountered,” she affirmed. “It’s a timeless comedy and Noël Coward’s plays never fail the audience.”

For ticket information, click here.

Auxiliary aids will be made available to persons with disabilities upon request 10 working days prior to the event.  Please call 704-406-4270 or email [email protected] with your request.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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