Theater Emory 2000-01 Season Includes Shaw's Rarely Seen "Methuselah" and the Southeastern Premiere of Susan Botti's Operatic Soliloquy
Theater Emory's 2000-2001 season will stretch from the Garden of Eden and Renaissance Venice to far into the future. Acting artistic director Leslie Taylor (producing artistic director Vincent Murphy is on sabbatical) has selected a season bracketed by ambitious works: one rarely seen because of its technical complexity, the other a new operatic soliloquy by a rising star in the music world. Three of the works also will fall under the umbrella of Emory University's Year of Reconciliation. Taylor is joined by Pat Miller as acting producing director of Theater Emory in Murphy's absence.
Murphy assured Taylor that she was under no obligation to do a work by George Bernard Shaw because Theater Emory had begun a multi-year investigation of his work this season, but for Taylor, all the signs pointed to Shaw's epic "Back to Methuselah," a work that had 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. She was convinced to tackle it when guest director Tim Ocel described a similar epiphany with that work in recent months, then Theater Emory colleague Michael Evenden said he'd been similarly captivated by the work way back 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 says. 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. Ocel will stage four of the five parts with Evenden directing the technically challenging part four as a concert reading. 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. The Oct. 11-Nov. 4 production is part of Emory's Year of Reconciliation.
The cast features a number of standouts well known to regional theater audiences. The cast includes Stuart Culpepper (elderly gentleman), Brenda Bynum (Zoo), Widdi Turner (the Oracle), Randy Cohlmia (Napolean), Elise Lloyd (Mrs. Lutesong), Chris Kayser (Lubin and Burge-Lubin), John Ammerman (Franklin Barnabas), Harold Leaver (Haslam and the Archbishop), Betty Hart (Minister of Health), Steve Coulter (Conrad Barnabas and Pygmalion) and Theo Harness (Burge). Several Emory student actors will round out the cast.
In cooperation with Emory's Program in Science and Society, staged readings will be done Oct. 26-27 of Arthur Kopit's acclaimed new work, "Y2K," a disturbing look at the insidious nature of identity theft. Kopit is a past recipient of the Tony Award for best musical for "Nine," and "Y2K" received rave reviews at last year's Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky. He also is the author of "End of the World With Symposium to Follow," "Indians" and "Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Momma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad."
Continuing the reconciliation theme, Theater Emory will present a staged reading adapted from the prison journals of Nobel literature laureate and Emory Professor Wole Soyinka, who spent 27 months in solitary confinement in his native Nigeria during that country's civil war in the 1960s. Murphy did the adaptation and will direct the one-night reading on Jan. 26, 2001 as part of the Symposium on Reconciliation, the centerpiece of the university's year-long project.
Wendy Hammonds play "Jersey City," Feb. 15-March 3, also will be part of the reconciliation project. The play is an intense drama of a young womans journey to a new life and wholeness following long-time sexual abuse by her father. Hammonds play "Julie Johnson" currently is being filmed with a cast that includes Lilli Taylor, Courtney Love and Spaulding Gray. Her work has been supported by the Playwriting Center of Theater Emory; her play "Mormons in Malibu" was a part of the 1995 Brave New Works Marathon at Emory.
The final full production of the season will be opera singer/composer Susan Botti's new theater and music work, "Telaio: Desdemona," March 23-24, 2001. The work weaves together the words spoken about Desdemona in Shakespeare's "Othello," and the poems of Gaspara Stampa, a young woman 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. At Emory it will be performed with a group of seven musicians, most of whom are members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Taylor collaborated with Botti as the production's designer.
"It's nice to have the opportunity to bring some of my outside work to Theater Emory," Taylor says. In fact, 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."
Botti also premiered a work at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall in January that was commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with funds from the Meet the Composer program. Her work has been acclaimed in The New York Times: " it was hard to know what to admire most about her efforts here: her music, her singing, or the theatrical flair and imagination she brought to both."
The season will conclude with the Brave New Works Marathon March 30-April 7, the biennial festival of readings from a variety of new works developed through the Playwriting Center of Theater Emory and performed by a company of professional, faculty and student actors. The festival features playwrights from the United States and abroad. Examples of work developed through the Playwriting Center include Elizabeth Dewberry Vaughn's "many things have happened since he died and here are a few of the highlights," (premiered at Horizon Theater); Robert Schenkkan's "Handler," (premiered at Actor's Express); "The Cockfighter," Vincent Murphy's adaptation of the Frank Manley novel, (premiere co-produced with Theater Emory at Push Push Theater, later produced at the Humana Festival); and Steve Murray's "Mileage," (premiered at Theater Emory and produced off-Broadway).
For tickets or additional information, call the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to email@example.com. The schedule details are as follows:
Oct. 11-Nov. 4
Thursday and Friday, Oct. 26-27
Theater Emory 00-01 season/4
Feb. 15-March 3
7:30 p.m. Feb. 15
Thursday and Friday, March 23-24
March 30-April 7
For tickets or information on any of these productions, call the Arts
at Emory box office at 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are special discount rates available for groups of 10 or more.
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