University Players to put accent on classics

Friday, May 23, 2003

A season of classics peppered with adventurous contemporary plays awaits audiences next season at the Rose Theatre.

The University Players will perform both Shakespeare's comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," one of the great American plays of the 20th century, during the first semester. A third classic, the children's story "Rapunzel," will be produced in the spring.

"We expect next season to be a very popular season," says Dr. Kenn Stilson, chairman of the Department of Theatre and Dance. He said the season should especially appeal to high school drama and English classes.

The first play of the season will be "Two Rooms," a drama about a professor taken hostage in Beirut and his wife's vigil in the U.S. It will be presented Sept. 24-28 and already has been cast, with Katie Wilson, Matt Frey, Adam Leong and Casee Hagen winning roles. Dr. Sharon Bebout-Carr will direct.

In a first for a relatively new department that hopes to blur the lines between theater and dance, a member of the theater faculty and a member of the dance faculty will co-direct a production: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Oct. 24-Nov. 2. Dance's Paul Zmolek and theater's Dr. Robert W. Dillon Jr. will guide the production.

As a result, this "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be very movement oriented. For instance, the three distinct classes of people in the play -- the nobility, the mechanicals and the fairy people -- all should have very different ways of moving that will help define the character, Zmolek says.

He and Dillon, who teaches a stage combat class, have been sitting in on each other's classes for the past two semesters. "Clearly he has more formal training in theater, and I do in dance, but enough overlaps that we're not completely speaking foreign languages," Zmolek said.

The University Players last produced "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 20 years ago. The directors are interested in exploring all sides of the encounters with the spirits of the Athenian forest, Zmolek said.

"'A Midsummer Night's dream'" is a comedy, but we are looking at the nightmarish aspect of it as well as the comedic."

Auditions for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be held Aug. 25. Community members are invited to try out to join the cast of 20. They will be asked to prepare a two-minute comic classical monologue not from the play.

Set in St. Louis in the 1930s and 1940s, "The Glass Menagerie" also will be a very visual production and will incorporate more music than most, says Stilson, the director. It is the story of Amanda Wingfield and grown children Tom and Laura, whose illusions about their lives contrast with very hard circumstances. "The Glass Menagerie" will be presented Dec. 5-6 and Dec. 9-14.

The second semester will offer the spring dance concert "Full Tilt 2004" Feb. 19-21. Zmolek will direct. He plans to include student choreography along with dances by himself and Dr. Marc Strauss, who has been on sabbatical the past year. Paul Schock, a member of the art faculty, also has been asked to provide a performance piece.

Stilson will return in the spring to direct the contemporary comedy "Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends (A Final Evening with the Illuminati)" March 30-April 3 in the Lab Theatre.

The piece challenges the politics of organized religion, Stilson said. "It's a very dark, dark comedy."

The final production of the season will be "Rapunzel" April 20-23, with Dennis C. Seyer directing. A script is still being developed.

335-6611, extension 182

335-6611, extension 182

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