A SEASON OF HIGH ADVENTURE
Most readers of our shameless Propaganda already know how excited we are about the new season at THEATREWORKS, but that’s not going to stop me from jumping up and down. Because, really, this season promises to be the most varied, the most challenging, the most entertaining and the most flat out fun we’ve ever had together—-and that’s saying something. Let me count the ways by explaining why I think each one of our shows is worthy of your special consideration.
THEATREWORKS Shakespeare Festival
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Rock Ledge Ranch August 4 – 27
Tuesdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Prologue Saturday August 21 at 6:00 p.m.
For over 300 years The Merchant of Venice was one of Shakespeare’s best known and best liked plays. It has a gripping hate plot where good triumphs over evil at the very last minute. It has a romantic love plot, in which the hand of a beautiful princess is won by the young suitor who solves the famous riddle of the three caskets. But in a post holocaust century, the play has become more complicated, because the plays comic villain is, emphatically, a Jew. Shylock is the embodiment of many of the strongest anti-Semitic stereotypes, and he is also, clearly, a target of such stereotyping . He is both Jewish villain and Jewish victim. The Merchant of Venice has become one of Shakespeare’s most problematic plays—a romantic comedy, a courtroom thriller, a dissection of a wealthy society not unlike our own, and an exploration of racial prejudice. What does this all add up to? One of the most exciting nights of theater you could hope for, and played out in our festival tent at Rock Ledge Ranch it promises to be the most entertaining and absorbing evening of the summer. We’ve got a wonderful cast, featuring Jane Noseworthy, who you may remember from her award winning performance in As You Like It two years ago. Jane will once again wear pants to deliver one of the greatest speeches in Shakespeare—but this time she gets to be a princess on a pedestal, too. Christopher Lowell, once the angriest of our 12 angry men, will be even angrier and much more potent when he returns to the courtroom as Shylock demanding his pound of flesh. It’s one of the most memorable roles in all dramatic literature. It’s quite a play.
THE 39 STEPS
September 15 – October 9
Thursdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinees on September 25, October 2 & 9 at 2:00 p.m.
Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
Prologue Sunday September 25 at 2:30 p.m.
When I was a boy I found a book on my mother’s bookshelf, a Penguin paperback, called The 39 Steps. There was a picture of a roadster on the cover, and behind the car were some scruffy hills and a running man. The book had everything a boy wants in a story: mystery, danger, very sinister bad people, dastardly plots, fog, trains, Scotland on the eve of the Great War. It had a perfect hero, Richard Hannay, a man with a stiff upper lip and a terrific knack for getting in and out of trouble. Years later I saw the Hitchcock film, which in some ways was even better than the book because now there were some intriguing women around, and by then I was ready for them. And many years after the film comes this play, which has been a sensation in London, New York, Denver, and very probably in the Highlands, too. The play includes just about everything I loved about the book and the movie, and a whole lot less— because the entire thrilling affair is performed by only four actors. They have their work cut out for them, believe me. It really is almost too much, especially when they are short on the handsome resources that usually come with action thrillers. Can our little Bon Vivant Theater hold a play that features planes, locomotives, leaps off bridges, murder in a London flat and a grand climax in the Royal Albert Hall? Yes, it can! Just you wait.
October 27 – November 6
Thursdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinees at 2:00 p.m.
Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
Prologue Sunday October 30 2:30 p.m.
Theater was twice born in our western civilization, once in Greece, and thousands of years later in the Middle Ages. And on both occasions the mother of theater was religion. Since then theatre has grown up and gone its own way, and these days theatre and religion don’t go out together much anymore. All that changes in Church, which is not only a play but also a religious service conducted by four young ministers who have quite a lot to celebrate. The author is Young Jean Lee, perhaps the most original and provocative playwright in America. The New Yorker calls her plays personal, probing and “utterly demented.” She grew up going to church with her Korean parents, and she hated it. She would sit there and look around at the people and think how awful they were. She went to college and declared herself an atheist. And then she wrote this play. It is not what you think. You will find yourself very surprised and possibly something more when you come to Church and worship in the house of Young Jean Lee.
WOMEN OF WILL
November 9 - 13
Wednesday – Saturday 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinee on November 12 at 2:00 p.m.
Sunday November 13 at 4:00 p.m.
Prologue Sunday November 13 at 2:00 p.m.
Tina Packer claims there are 177 female characters in Shakespeare—that’s nothing compared to his 770 men. But Juliet, Cleopatra, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Desdemona, and Kate the Shrew are quite a handful. You’ll meet them ,and several more, in this extraordinary performance, which The New York Times calls “a lively and illuminating tour” of the women of Will. Ms. Packer is the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, and there is no one more qualified to lead us into the unusually rich world of Shakespeare’s heroines, queens, warriors, saints and murderers. She doesn’t merely show, she also tells— explaining as she explores the many variations of the feminine Shakespeare created over his long dramatic career. There’s a man in the room too, Nigel Gore, her performing partner who fully assists as husband, lover, friend and foe.
December 1 - 23
Wednesdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinees on December 11 & 18 at 2:00 p.m.
Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
Performances Tuesday - Friday December 20-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Prologue Sunday December 11 at 2:30 p.m.
We love this story, and so does everybody else, and we are going to retell the whole thing on our stage all over again, and very faithfully too. The only difference, and we think you’ll agree it is a minor one, is that our story will not begin in a London townhouse but in a senior assisted living center somewhere near here. We believe that is it not just young boys who never grow up, or middle aged boys who develop a syndrome, but old boys too, who are just as lost, just as young at heart, and even more likely to live in Never Land. I know this from looking at many of the old boys around me, and also from looking in the mirror. We are also fearless, foolish, ardent in the pursuit of justice, and even more certain, as Peter is, that dying will be “an awfully big adventure.” We’d like the chance to play with mermaids, Indians, and fairies, and we are still ready to take on the pirates. I’m very certain you will relish the chance to fly out the window with Peter, Wendy and a bunch of very lost boys.
JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE
January 26 – February 19
Wednesdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinees on February 4, 11, & 18 at 2:00 p.m.
Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
Prologue Sunday February 12 at 2:30 p.m.
August Wilson’s ten play cycle chronicling a century’s experience of black Americans is one of our nation’s great theatrical accomplishments. THEATREWORKS has produced two of these plays: Fences, set in the 1950’s, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, set in the 1920’s. We think Joe Turner may be the greatest play of this great series. It’s set (as usual) in Pittsburgh, this time in 1911, in a boarding house which serves as a refuge for people on the move, making the great migration north to a new world, a new age of industrialization, and a new identity. The play has an astonishing range, moving forward into the future but also back to a spiritual past, culminating in the juba, a dance which conjures the holy spirit in an ecstatic frenzy. At the heart of Joe Turner is Harold Loomis, who arrives with his young daughter in search of his missing wife. His journey is to recover his strength, to stand up, shine and find “his song.” It is a rare thing to produce a play in Colorado Springs with a large cast of African Americans, and it is rarer still to stage a play of this depth, richness and musicality. Joe Turner is perhaps the most ambitious production of our ambitious season, and it’s worth its weight in gold. It is gold
March 15 – 25
Wednesdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m. Saturday Matinees
at 2:00 p.m. Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
Prologue Sunday March 18 at 2:30 p.m.
Our student theater is always doing something bold and surprising, and here comes the play celebrated as the quintessence of “decadence.” Salome was controversial from the beginning– when word of its lurid quality got around London, rehearsals were halted in 1892 on the grounds it was illegal to depict biblical characters on the stage. Its first production was in France (wouldn’t you know it?) four years later, by which time Wilde was already in prison. Audiences a century later might be slightly less shocked, but the story of the girl who asks her step dad for a saint’s head on a platter as a reward for a lap dance still seems very—well—modern. Oscar Wilde’s version is an elegant invitation to spectacle and we are confident our young and gifted students will deliver every shimmer of every tantalizing veil.
April 19 – May 6
Wednesdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Matinees on April 28 & May 5 at 2:00 p.m.
Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
Prologue Sunday April 29 at 2:00 p.m.
Two Queens, one kingdom, and one thrilling play. Friedrich Schiller wrote Mary Stuart in 1800; it’s classic romantic drama. But it’s also strikingly modern, a heady rush of passion and power in a political world that looks a lot like our own. Queen Elizabeth has imprisoned Mary, and she would quite like the Queen of Scotland out of the way. But it’s not that easy; in fact it’s an extremely awkward situation. There all these men in suits hanging around—some loyal, some devious, some spineless. Spin matters. It’s a very rough business. Eventually a lovely head will roll, but not before a suicide, a failed rescue plot, and an extraordinary heart to heart, face to face collision in the rain. Mary Stuart is a dream come true for two of the best actresses in the land, and for theater goers who are ready for what theater used to be: rousing, beautiful, and heroic. It’s a great bubble bath of blank verse with just a little bit of the best soap in the world thrown in. Well, more than a little bit: it’s hot, wet, rich, and oh so refreshing!
So there you have it: eight plays, and eight reasons why the artistic director of THEATREWORKS is feeling especially exhilarated these days. Each of these plays is a unique adventure, a remarkable adventure. I think it’s a season any theater in America could be proud of. So much better than Disney World, so much closer, so much more affordable, so much more human and fun all year long. Ready? Let’s go!
In late May I had the pleasure of accompanying several UCCS arts students on our annual tour of New York City. We saw some of the greatest theatre New York has had to offer in decades. Beyond the art, we got to reconnect with UCCS and THEATREWORKS friends and artists (Gareth Saxe in The Lion King. Richard Crawford in Warhorse). On the final day of the tour, Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis took the students on a behind the scenes tour of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. It was a magical afternoon and a lovely send off for the students. The most powerful producer in American theatre spent over an hour with us, told funny stories, answered questions and enlightened us about the history of Shakespeare in the Park. In beautiful 75-degree weather we sat in the famous Delacorte and watched technical rehearsals for the Shakespeare in the Park. It seemed the perfect New York afternoon.
For me, the scene in Central Park is a perfect example of the great benefit, edification and joy of our new Prologue Lecture Series. While Oskar is a friend and former professor of mine, he certainly did not have to give of his time during technical rehearsals of the biggest Shakespeare festival in the nation. But, in the eight months since Oskar came to Colorado Springs for his Prologue lecture, he has mentioned to me on several occasions how much he loved his brief stay in our community. He was moved by the warmth and intellectual curiosity of our students and of the THEATREWORKS patrons. In short, he said, he would do anything for us. A class in Central Park with our students? No problem.
These are more than just anecdotes about professional connections. And while The Prologue Lecture Series has already helped put THEATREWORKS and UCCS on a larger theatrical map, the friends that we are making and building help all of us link up the small but powerful community of American theatre enthusiasts and professionals. Theatre is nothing if not a medium of social connection and community building and indeed, there is a good reason why we turn off the television and drive across town to see a play. We gather in a theatre to be with other people who love art as we do. This has been the major philosophic underpinning of Prologue: to provide fun and educational forums for our community in order to connect with and learn from people from other theatrical communities. And, in the true spirit of the democratic theatrical ideals that Oskar espoused, we do it for free. I promise that there is nowhere else in the country that you can have the opportunity to work at no cost with superstars such as Double Edge, Anne Bogart, Tina Packer and Eric Hill. In addition, the series has allowed us all to expand our minds, to greater appreciate theatre and to further heighten the enjoyment we have for our own great little theatre here on the Front Range.
This coming season we are no less ambitious. In fact, we have upped the ante. Some of you have asked for a little introduction to our speakers so that you are better prepared to enjoy and appreciate these luminaries. So, I am happy to give you a brief overview of what we have in store for our 2011-2012 season:
In August several prominent Colorado rabbis will join Murray and me on the stage at Rock Ledge Ranch for a round-table discussion about Shylock and the problematic representation of Jews in The Merchant of Venice. I am working on an article about portrayals of Shylock in 2011, specifically vis-à-vis our new production and the New York production starring Al Pacino (and produced by, who else, Oskar Eustis). I will share what I have learned.
If you don’t already know Professor Robert von Dassanowsky, be sure you meet him in September. One of the great film scholars in America, Von Dassanowky will tell us about the films of Alfred Hitchcock in connection with our production of The 39 Steps. Robert is one of the most compelling and knowledgeable speakers I know and I am so excited to hear what he has to share.
More theatre royalty in October. Young Jean Lee runs one of the most important experimental theatre companies in America. We are doing one of her plays and thought we might try to get her to join us for a couple of days. She said yes! Lee’s story is fascinating and we will have an afternoon to ask her questions about her life in art.
Tina Packer is one of my favorite people and I am giddy about her visit to present Women of Will in November. Tina is one of the great Shakespearian actors in the world (I know, it seems hyperbolic… but its true) and a funny and engaging teacher. In addition to her production, she is going to lead a lucky few in a Shakespeare acting workshop. Make sure to sign up early.
Murray Ross needs no introduction. He will provide one of his usual fabulous talks before Peter Pan in December.
The winter and spring season will kick off with the most prominent name in theatre scholarship: Richard Schechner. Even if you don’t yet know his name, trust me, this is a real coup. Dr. Schechner is the author of dozens of books on theatre and Performance Studies. Famously, he directed Dionysus in 69, arguably the most important experimental theatre piece of the last 50 years. I will give him a proper and full introduction in the February issue of Propaganda.
Clinton Turner Davis is a prominent director and his work is known worldwide. Clinton thought it would be fun to have a mid-winter banquet that celebrates the culinary references in the writings of August Wilson. We agreed, and so delectable food will accompany Clinton’s lecture in February.
The most famous acting teacher in America will be here in the spring. Anne Bogart pioneered a method of training called Viewpoints that encourages the actor/dancer to come into tune with physical surroundings and architecture. There is no theatre company or program in the country that does not use some form of her research and teachings. I am so excited to share her and her work next year. Again, space will have to be very limited… reserve your spot early. This is a once in a lifetime experience.
Eric Hill will be a wonderful companion lecture to Anne Bogart. He teaches a form of acting from Japan called Suzuki training. Think stomping, running, yelling, drumming and sore thighs! It’s great, really. Eric was a member of the Suzuki Company of Toga Japan and there is no one better to teach the style that we will be using in the student production of Salome.
I will close out the season with a lecture about the work of Friedrich Schiller as our final Prologue to Mary Stuart. Sorry, I won’t praise myself… but I think you should come.
I am sure that you will agree that it is an amazing list of artists and scholars. You really won’t want to miss any of them. As this year showed, going into a play with a little background information makes the theatre all the more exciting and personal. We have more people to meet and connections to make and I hope that you will join us for all of the excitement.
All my best for a wonderful summer. I look forward to seeing you at our first Prologue at Rock Ledge Ranch in August.
– Kevin Landis UCCS Theatre Program Director / Prologue Producer