Emory Report

May 1, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 31

Theater Emory announces '00-01 season

By Deb Hammacher

Theater Emory's 2000-01 season will stretch from the Garden of Eden and Renaissance Venice to far into the future under the joint leadership of Pat Miller, acting producing director, and Leslie Taylor, acting artistic director, while Artistic Producing Director Vincent Murphy is on sabbatical.

Taylor has selected a season bracketed by ambitious works: one rarely seen because of its technical complexity, the other a new chamber opera by a rising star in the music world. Two of the works also will fall under the umbrella of the University's Year of Reconciliation.

Murphy had assured Taylor that she was under no obligation to stage a work by George Bernard Shaw even though Theater Emory began a multiyear investigation of the playwright this season. But for Taylor, all the signs pointed to Shaw's epic Back to Methuselah, a work that captivated her as a freshman at Wellesley.

Considering that Methuselah stretches from the Garden of Eden to the year 31,920, Taylor wasn't sure it could be pulled off, but she was convinced to try when guest director Tim Ocel described a similar epiphany with the work in recent months, and Theater Emory colleague Michael Evenden said he'd been equally captivated by Methuselah in high school.

"To me, that two other people I respect had been so captivated by this same work was the sign that we should do it," Taylor said.

Staging Methuselah is no small feat; a recent reading ran six-and-a-half hours. Theater Emory's production will be staged in two parts, similar to how Angels in America and Nicholas Nickleby were done elsewhere in the past. Ocel will direct four of the five parts, with Evenden directing the technically challenging Part Four. In the play, Shaw asks how long one would have to live to gain the maturity necessary to create a truly wise and just society.

Miller said Methuselah will be staged in both spaces of the Mary Gray Munroe Theater, the "M2" and the primary space that formerly housed the Black Rose. Before construction of the Elizabethan-style theater, the main space was a flexible black box, and Miller said that is what it will become again. She said Ocel and Taylor will meet later this month to discuss specifics of how best to adapt the space for Methuselah.

In cooperation with the College's Program in Science and Society, a reading will be done of Arthur Kopit's acclaimed new work Y2K, a disturbing look at the nature of identity theft. Kopit is a past recipient of the Tony Award for best musical, and Y2K received rave reviews at last year's Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky.

Along with Back to Methuselah, Wendy Hammond's play Jersey City will be part of the Year of Reconciliation. The play is an intense drama of a young woman's journey to a new life and wholeness following long-time sexual abuse by her father.

The final full production of the season will be opera singer/composer Susan Botti's new theater and music work, Telaio: Desdemona. The work weaves together the Desdemona of Shakespeare's Othello with the poems of Gaspara Stampa, a young female poet in Renaissance Italy whose life mirrored that of Desdemona.

According to Opera magazine, "the words--from Othello--are Desdemona's or other characters speaking of her. And the irony is acute: ragingly masculine, sexist at times, Desdemona is characterized as lustful, degraded womanhood. But in her own words, and certainly in the four arias succeeding the recitative, Desdemona lives a more real, fuller emotional life."

Theater Emory's production will be the Southeast premiere of Telaio: Desdemona. It has been performed in New York and Santa Fe, N.M., and will be part of this summer's Convergence Festival in Providence, R.I. Taylor collaborated with Botti as the designer.

"It's nice to have the opportunity to bring some of my outside work to Theater Emory," Taylor said. She has won a number of awards for her design work outside of Emory, including the prestigious Maharam Award as associate designer for the Broadway production of K-2.

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