Antigone – A Heroine for Our Time

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(Left to right) Students Corrie Taylor as Antigone and Brittney Bressler as Ismene

Antigone , reeling from a contentious civil war with profound bloodshed, now has the obligation to bury her dead brother. Sounds simple enough, but her uncle Creon, the new king, has decreed that her brother’s body should be left unburied for the birds to devour. If she disobeys her uncle there will be dire consequences, and yet, Antigone is determined to do what is right by her brother and what the gods demand, even if it leads to her eventual demise.

The character of Antigone, played by Corrie Taylor in the upcoming production at the Purdue University Fort Wayne Williams Theatre from Nov.  9 – 17, is fearless as she challenges authority and fights for justice. Because so many of the play’s moral, religious, and political dilemmas mirror those of today, audiences often view the ancient Greek tragedy as a contemporary parable.

“Antigone, to me, is this fearless, headstrong, and bravely loud creature with an unapologetic attitude,” explains Taylor. “She shakes the ground when she walks and moves mountains out of her way. However, she also has this brokenness, and is living with internal and emotional suffering caused by what happened to her and her family.”

People in our world today will recognize many of the themes and challenges in Antigone, as it speaks throughout the ages to any society, at any time in which it’s produced. That’s what makes it so relevant. Antigone is not willing to listen or compromise and King Creon is exactly the same way, not willing to compromise one inch. One of the devises used by Sophocles and other Greek playwrights to help us sort out this story is that of the often misunderstood Greek chorus.

While the Greek chorus on the surface may seem foreign to us today, audiences today see it used in virtually every contemporary musical on Broadway. Music Man or Guys and Dolls are prime examples of how the chorus continually works to propel the story forward. If all of the chorus numbers were to be deleted, with only solos and duets left on stage, the story would be gutted. It’s the same with Greek plays.

“A fully realized chorus is what’s missing in many Greek plays that are contemporarily produced,” said director Jeff Casazza. “Just as a chorus in a musical comments on what just happened or prepares the audience for the next scene by wiping the slate clean, the Greek chorus serves the same function.”

Casazza, who has had extensive training in devised theatre, has approached Antigone as an ensemble piece and has worked with the cast on myriad acting exercises to make sure they are all telling the same story, in the same world, at the same time. “It takes work, imagination, and an exciting rehearsal process to discover those opportunities as an ensemble,” explained Casazza. “The level of ownership in these devised components of the play happens fairly quickly for the actors and it’s exciting for the audience.”

Tickets – www.pfw.edu/tickets
260-481-6555

A Year with Frog and Toad – Beloved by Children and Parents Everywhere

By Bev Redman, director

F&T Promo Best (6)For many of us, we learned some of the first facets of friendship while reading Arnold Lobel’s beloved series of books about the ever-cheerful Frog, the curmudgeonly Toad, and all of their friends that live with them down in the grasses.  Lobel’s Frog and Toad books are timeless and the pure-hearted Broadway musical, A Year with Frog and Toad, opening at Williams Theatre on September 21, is proving to be equally adored over time.

But parents and grandparents beware! You should know from the outset that little kids really, really relate to these two friends and find creative ways to reflect these joyful stories in their own friendships. In other words, your hearts will swell just watching them enjoy themselves.

While the musical speaks specifically to boys and girls who have yet to reach the age of personal iPhones and Korean boy bands like K-Pop, adults can spend some tranquil time in the theatre with their little ones enjoying this gentle, agreeable production about the simple friendship of two slime-free amphibians set to song.

It was a daring leap of faith in 2003, to take the musical by brothers Willie Reale (book and lyrics) and Robert Reale (music) from the Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis to New York City. In a metropolis, where theatre tickets soar past $100, it played to packed houses at the jewel box called the New Victory Theater.

The musical follows Frog and Toad through four colorful seasons, from hibernation to hibernation, featuring catchy tunes, funny dialogue, and bright, memorable characters.  Whether they’re rushing down a hill in a runaway sled with their playful, quirky friends Snail, Turtle, and the Birds, or losing all willpower when confronted with the cookie jar, or taking a picnic in the summer, their adventures make for some of the simplest — and most enjoyable – moments on stage.

A Year with Frog and Toad is the first children’s theatre production done by our department and it has posed new types of challenges for us. The genre demands a broad style of performance—big facial expressions and definitive character traits formed with the whole body in grand strokes.

We started with simply focusing on the relationship Frog and Toad share with each other and with their neighbors, giving it as much realistic depth as possible, before layering it with the bigger-than-life qualities of the Children’s Theatre genre. The journey has involved seeking that balance between authentic connection and strong moment-to-moment actions, while also playing it big. We have been keenly aware that if it reaches the level of mere cartoon, the humanity and friendship we are trying to represent might be lost.

And Toad and Frog are, indeed, friends, and their respect for each other comes through in every song and scene. Even though the characters are fictional, the feelings they share are very real, and the care they show for each other and the world around them resonates with adults, as well as children.

In our increasingly fast-paced world, where friendships are often seen through a digital filter, it’s good to be reminded that sharing the simplest adventures with our best friends often brings us the greatest joy. And, that includes going to the theatre with your favorite children.

Feed Me Seymour, Feed Me!

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Ethan Lichtle as Seymour, left, and Megan Buss as Audrey, right, are joined by their back-up singer Audrey II, center.

In 1982, a quirky musical about a cute little plant that feeds on human blood and flesh opened Off-Off Broadway before enjoying a five-year run at the Orpheum Theatre Off-Broadway. With a flesh-eating puppet at its center, no wonder Frank Oz (of Muppet fame) couldn’t wait to direct the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors. IPFW and director Bev Redman will revisit this musical gem from April 20 – 29 at IPFW Williams Theatre.

Little Shop of Horrors is a rock and roll, doo-wop style musical with a Motown flare that has a love story at its core. Seymour Krelborn, a hapless florist shop worker, discovers a mysterious plant similar to a Venus Fly Trap while browsing the wholesale flower district. He lovingly returns it to Mushnik’s Skid Row Florist where he works.  Seymour, who is secretly in love with his co-worker Audrey, names the plant Audrey II in her honor.

Unfortunately, the plant doesn’t thrive in its new environment until Seymour, who pricks his finger in a rose thorn, watches the plant hungrily lap up some nourishment from his finger. The rapidly growing Audrey II becomes the most popular thing ever to happen to the flower shop and timid Seymour must find ways to continue to feed the ravenous plant, when his own blood supply simply is not enough.

By the end of Act I, when Seymour stops feeding the plant, Audrey II reveals that it can speak. In fact, it demands blood and promises that, if fed, it will make sure that all of Seymour’s dreams come true. Once the plant takes on a life of its own, the musical escalates into one wacky, horrific twist and turn after another.

By all accounts, the puppet plants are one of the key components that make this musical so enjoyable for the audiences. There are four of them that grow over time, with sufficient flesh and blood, to take over the stage. IPFW will be renting theirs from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Tickets are $16 for seniors; all other tickets are $18 and under. Contact the IPFW Box Office at 260-481-6555 or www.ipfw.edu/tickets.

Chekhov’s Seagull is Still Hangin’ Around in Stupid F*@%ing Bird

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One of the advantages of having a university theatre department in your home town is that you do not have to travel to Chicago or New York City to experience some of the most contemporary theatre being performed today. We train our students in these new works and techniques, in turn entreating our audiences to experiences they will not find anywhere else in the region. And so it is with Stupid F*@%ing Bird by Aaron Posner and directed by Jeff Casazza, which will run from Feb 17 – 25 at IPFW’s Williams Theatre.

Posner’s takeoff on Anton Chekhov’s somewhat dusty 19th-century play The Seagull is a combination of extreme silliness and searing insight that not only makes Stupid F*@%ing Bird engrossing, but also emotionally resonant in a startling sort of way. Chekhov was revolutionary in his time and Posner has made him so again. He has taken Chekhov’s classic and run it through a post-modern, post-theatrical shredder taking the actors and audience on a wild and crazy “meta-theatrical” ride. It became something of an instant classic in its own right when it debuted at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 2013 in Washington, D.C., and has been one of the most produced contemporary plays in recent years and was called “the best Chekhov adaptation in two decades” by L.A. Weekly.

So what is meta-theatre anyway? Meta-theatre describes aspects of a play that draw attention to its nature as theatre, or to the circumstances of its performance. Those aspects often include actors directly addressing the audience, dropping the notion of a fourth wall, and the acknowledgement of the fact that the people performing are actors and not actually the characters they are playing.

You don’t have to know The Seagull to enjoy the production, but if you do know Chekhov’s play, you’re bound to be surprised and delighted by these meta-theatrical actors/characters as they navigate the murky waters of this insightful play.

Stupid F*@%ing Bird concerns a roundelay of romantic and emotional entanglements amongst a group of family members and their friends gathered at a large beach house. Emma, a famous diva who is not about to relinquish the spotlight, is surrounded by Sorn, her genial doctor brother and her son Con, a tortured artist who demands too much from the world and gives little in return. Emma’s proud and pompous lover Trigorin is tempted by the love of Con’s life, the ambitious, but soon to be tragic Nina, while timid Dev swoons for Goth girl Mash, who channels her depression by writing and singing happy ukulele tunes about the harshness of life and love.

And while these may not be the most likable self-absorbed characters (Chekhov’s weren’t either for that matter), you’ll never, ever be bored by them. From the beginning they fill the stage with bursts of energy and enthusiasm through their dialogue, which is filled with hilarious lines, critiquing each other and the play they’re in. Yes, these characters know that they’re in a play, and they happily comment on the relevance of theatre in the 21st century. It will give you a refreshing look at how theatre embraces our world today.

Six Characters Plead for Their Story to Be Completed in Upcoming Play

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Six Characters in Search of an Author
By Luigi Pirandello
Directed by Bev Redman
Studio Theatre in Kettler Hall
Dec. 2, 3, 8, 9, 10         8:00 p.m.
Dec. 4              2:00 p.m.

When Sicilian-born Luigi Pirandello (1867-1937) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934, he was widely known as the author of intricate philosophical comedies. One in particular, Six Characters in Search of an Author, had catapulted him onto the international scene in the early 1920s, leading to acclaimed performances all over Europe and the Americas.

The setting and the initial style of Six Characters is very familiar to audiences worldwide. A professional acting troupe gathers on stage to rehearse Pirandello’s The Game of Role Playing. The troupe is comprised of the requisite players including a prompter, stage manager, director, technician, actors, secretary, crew members; in essence, a representation of the hustle and bustle of professional theatre.  Professional to the point that the director wants the impudent leading lady fined for being late and when the boorish leading man complains about his costume the director exclaims, “We never get a good play from France anymore, so we are reduced to producing plays by Pirandello!” Pirandello is certainly not lacking in self-deprecating wit.

Before the Actors can dig into the script at hand, however, six Characters wander into their rehearsal space a little lost and perplexed. A Father, Mother, Step Daughter, Son, Boy and Little Girl explain they have been abandoned by their author and their story left dangling, incomplete. The Father pleads with the director to help them complete their story and live for a moment at least, through the Actors. Pirandello describes the Characters in his stage directions as “created realities, unchanging constructs of the imagination, and therefore more solidly real than the Actors with their fluid naturalness.”

Intrigued and persuaded, the director begins the challenging task of sorting out each of their unfinished stories and finding a way to develop a cohesive play for the stage. Eventually the Character’s become frustrated with the Actors’ process of making their story into a play and deny the value of interpretation altogether. The Characters want to take on the roles themselves and “live” (not play at) their own truths. They struggle to take on the roles themselves, but even this becomes mired in the conventions of the stage they wish to avoid altogether.

Although they initially present themselves as flat Characters, their story is actually far from simple, since it is a collection of many stories, made up of individual perspectives. The conventions of communication available to them and to the actors simply do not suffice to get all of their inner truths out into the world and communicated to others intact.

Why should we think about or even perform Pirandello’s near-century old little play any more? Well, perhaps because it teaches us the very best and the very worst aspects of human communication. Maybe we will come to realize, as Pirandello does with Six Characters in Search of an Author, all that can be achieved is a kind of collective empathy for our common disability – an awareness that we are trapped in our own stories and our own perspectives about those stories.

$5 IPFW Students/ High School Students/Children Under 18
$16 Adults
$14 Seniors/Faculty/Staff/Alumni
$12 Groups of 10 or More
$12 Other College students with ID
Children under 6 will not be admitted.

IPFW Box Office
Purchase Tickets Online
www.ipfw.edu/tickets

Purchase Tickets by Phone or in Person
260-481-6555
Sept. 1–May 31            Monday – Friday, 12:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Located in the Gates Athletic Center Room 126

Blithe Spirit Haunts Williams Theatre From Sept. 30 – Oct. 8, 2016

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Brock Graham as Charles and Laura Laudeman as Ruth will be at wits end when they are haunted by Charles’ former wife, Elvira (Brook O’Mara, in the background).

For many, the thought of being haunted by one’s former spouse might be enough to make them drink heavily. And depending upon the nature of the former spouse, the haunting could be a laugh riot or could cause an actual riot with the current spouse. In the hands of playwright Noël Coward, the master of British wit, we get both possibilities, as we relish the humor and complexity of long term commitments, even those that appear to go on into eternity.

The classic comedy Blithe Spirit focuses on successful author and socialite Charles Condomine, who must gather material on the world of the occult for his next novel. In an attempt to “pick up some jargon and to make notes on the tricks of the trade,” he engages local medium, Madame Arcati, to conduct a séance at his home in Kent. Hilarity ensues as the offbeat psychic unwittingly summons the spirit of his late wife Elvira, who has a plan of her own and who mischievously haunts the writer and wreaks havoc on his current marriage to Ruth.

Filled with razor-sharp dialogue, Blithe Spirit provides the wit and sophistication we expect in a vintage play by Coward. Directing plays infused with this upper-crust, elegant-yet-quirky style is a joy for director Craig A. Humphrey. Previous productions he has directed in this genre include Coward’s Hay Fever, last season’s immensely popular musical Anything Goes, and the musical On the 20th Century. This step back into early 20th-century elegance is one of his favorites. And the cast for this production has the perfect combination of experience and comic timing to carry it off.

Charles (Brock Graham) is a likeable and laughably flippant hauteur, who becomes increasingly “unhinged” as he is caught in the middle of a power struggle between his two jealous wives–Elvira (Brooke O’Mara), who is visible and audible to him alone (and, of course, to the audience), and Ruth (Laura Laudeman), who at first thinks he’s either drunk or mad, as he converses with the apparition.

Whereas the down-to-earth Ruth is more straight-laced, proper, and mature, and can’t quite comprehend her husband’s unusual conduct, Elvira is–as advertised!–blithe and spirited, as she floats around the room, drapes herself on the furniture, and delights in the utter chaos she causes. Madame Arcati (Kate Black) is brimming with bizarre movements and incantations, fluctuating between the serious and the ridiculous, until she ultimately admits that she doesn’t have a clue how to exorcise the spirit she unleashed.

Blithe Spirit opens Sept. 30 and runs for two weekends at IPFW’s Williams Theatre. You will definitely leave your troubles on the door step once you enter the hauntingly hilarious world of the Condomines.

“Noël Coward’s ‘improbable farce’ is really about a subject that haunts all Coward’s best comedies, which is the perils of long-term commitment.” –The Guardian

Blithe Spirit
By Noël Coward
Directed by Craig A. Humphrey
Williams Theatre

Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 6, 7, 8, 2016            8:00 p.m.
Oct. 2, 2016                2:00 p.m.
Sign language interpreted performance – Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016

$5 IPFW Students/ High School Students/Children Under 18
$16 Adults
$14 Seniors/Faculty/Staff/Alumni
$12 Groups of 10 or More
$12 Other College students with ID
Children under 6 will not be admitted.
www.ipfw.edu/theatre

IPFW Box Office
Purchase Tickets Online
www.ipfw.edu/tickets

Purchase Tickets by Phone or in Person
260-481-6555
TTD: 260-481-4105
Sept. 1–May 31           Monday – Friday, 12:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Located in the Gates Athletic Center Room 126

Patrons are encouraged to call in advance to reserve their tickets. Please arrive early. Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of management or at intermission.