Theater season has U.K. theme

Hannah Jastram

This year’s theater season kicks off with English classic “Hamlet” and continues the geographical theme on the main stage.
Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Kathy Privatt spoke of a discussion with fellow associate professor Timothy Troy. “Tim suggested we play with the idea that we do an Irish season or a U.K. season.”
While in Ireland last year, Troy had done some research into British scripts and came up with “Whiteheaded Boy,” by Lennox Robinson. Troy will direct the comedy spring term on the main stage.
Privatt did her part to contribute to the theme. She contacted The Playwrights’ Center, a Minneapolis-based organization dedicated to putting new playwrights into circulation, and asked for a play related to the U.K. What she got was “Smash,” Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of G.B. Shaw’s “An Unsocial Socialist.”
“Shaw’s work certainly has political intent,” Privatt said, but is not necessarily applicable to today’s world.
The third production, hitting the main stage this fall, is “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” a musical based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel. Because the novel is unfinished, the audience gets to vote on how the play will end each night.
“Potentially, it will be a different play every night,” theater and music major Matt Murphy said.
Auditions took place this week under the direction of Fellow Annette Thornton, who is leaving at the end of the year. “We’ll just not think about that,” Privatt said sadly. “Annette is wonderful.”
Besides the core main stage show, each term boasts a few other theatrical events. For example, the winter and spring terms showcase the work of student directors. In February, David Hanzal will direct the annual performance of “The Vagina Monologues.”
“He’ll definitively give an interesting perspective to the work,” said a friend of Hanzal. “I’m curious to see if his avant-garde tendencies will carry over.”
In April, Matt Murphy will direct the musical “Working,” by Studs Terkel. Murphy described Terkel as an “urban anthropologist” who built a “case study of the American worker.”
“He interviewed the unsung heroes of the ’70s and ’80s,” Murphy said. “Terkel’s work is really real. It’s gripping in its reality.”
With the help of librettist, “Working” was transformed into a musical with an unusual version of a pit orchestra. “It calls for two keyboards, two guitars and one bass,” Murphy said with a smile. As for the message of the play, he said, “To me, it gives hope to the middle class.”
Other divisions of the fine arts have something to offer as well. Lawrence’s Dance Company presents “Various States of Undress” winter term. The critically acclaimed piece from last season will be performed one night only, Jan. 19.
To round out the term, the Conservatory Opera will perform two one-act plays by Giacomo Puccini, “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicci.” The pieces contrast not only in content, but also in language. The former will be performed completely in Italian, while “Gianni Schicci,” which is more conversational, will be sung in English.
The last event of the season is the sixth annual live taping session of the Theatre of the Air. Tim Troy is in charge of the detective shows “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar,” “Roger Kilgore, Public Defender” and “The Adventures of Sam Spade.”
Troy found the detective scripts for this performance while he was abroad. He pulls actors from voice and diction class in order to shorten rehearsal time. The final result is broadcast over WLFM and possibly even WPR.
These events are not the only ways to get your theater fix, however. “We have a bumper crop of senior projects this year,” Privatt said. “In terms of being involved, it’s just a case of connecting the right people to each other.” In terms of being an audience, it means more nuggets of theater to enjoy.