A romantic rigmarole at NYSTI

Peal's outgoing nature brought her to NYSTI when she was just 5. A kid with a self-described "huge imagination," she asked her mom and dad if she could attend NYSTI camps and programs, and they embraced the idea.

"I just absolutely adore theater, and my parents always encourage anything I'm passionate about," she said.

While acting has always come naturally to her, this role presented a new challenge. "The Philadelphia Story" was a well-known movie starring Katherine Hepburn as Tracy Lord, Cary Grant as C.K. Dexter Haven and Jimmy Stewart as Connor. Peal wanted to see the movie, but at the same time, she wasn't sure that was a good idea.

"I was struggling with it," she said. "I wanted to develop the character in my own fashion."

She did eventually sit down and watch the movie, just as a point of reference. When she's on stage, she draws not on the movie, but on those around her, she said.

"A big part of my character is reacting to how my co-stars react," she said.

Hansen noticed when she watched the film for the first time that Hepburn had her own commanding take on the character.

"The role seemed written for Katherine Hepburn," Hansen said. "I saw a very confident woman. It was as if she was saying, ' This is mine. I own it.'"

Hepburn wound up earning an Academy Award nomination for her role, and Stewart took home the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Connor.

Connor is played in NYSTI's version by David Girard, and Lord's other love interest, ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven, is played by Jason Marr. A Queens resident, Marr previously appeared in NYSTI's "Arsenic and Old Lace," and contacted his agent about having him play a part in "The Philadelphia Story."

Marr is a long-time fan of the movie, as well as the time in which it's set.

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