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Release date: June 22, 2000
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Assistant Director, 404-727-0644, or dhammac@emory.edu

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 Hammond’s play "Jersey City," Feb. 15-March 3, also will be part of the reconciliation project. 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. Hammond’s 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 boxoffice@emory.edu. The schedule details are as follows:

Oct. 11-Nov. 4
"Back to Methuselah" by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Tim Ocel and Michael Evenden. The cast includes professionals Stuart Culpepper (elderly gentleman), Brenda Bynum (Zoo), Widdi Turner (the Oracle), and 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). Mary Gray Munroe Theater, Dobbs University Center, 605 Asbury Circle, on the Emory campus. This epic play will presented in two parts in alternate performances. Tickets may be purchased for either part or both at a discount. For Part I or II purchased individually: $7.50 Emory students with i.d., $15 general admission. Parts I and II purchased together: $15 Emory students with i.d., $25 general admission.

Part I:
7:30 p.m. Oct. 11
8 p.m. Oct. 13*, 19, 26, Nov. 2
2 p.m. Oct. 21, 28, Nov. 4
1 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29
Part II:

8 p.m. Oct. 12, 20, 21, 27, 28, Nov. 3 and 4
2 p.m. Oct. 14*
7 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29
* pay-what-you-can performance

Thursday and Friday, Oct. 26-27
"Y2K" by Arthur Kopit, winner of the 1982 Tony Award for the book of the musical "Nine," and author of "End of the World with Symposium to Follow," "Indians," and several other plays. Kopit turns his skillful eye to the insidious world of identity theft. Produced in cooperation with the Emory College Program in Science and Society. Discussion will follow the performances. 7:30 p.m. Theater Laboratory, 117 Burlington Road Building, 1804 N. Decatur Rd., Emory. Free.

Theater Emory 00-01 season/4
Friday, Jan. 26

"The Man Died" by Wole Soyinka, adapted for the stage by Vincent Murphy. A staged reading adapted from the prison journals of Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate for literature and Woodruff Professor of the Arts at Emory. The journal was written during his 27 months in solitary confinement as a political prisoner during civil war in his native Nigeria in the late 1960s. The reading will part of Emory University's Symposium on Reconciliation, the centerpiece of the university's year-long Year of Reconciliation. 8 p.m. Cannon Chapel, 515 Kilgo Circle, Emory. Ticket information tba.

Feb. 15-March 3
"Jersey City" by Wendy Hammond, directed by Ariel de Man. In this intense drama, a young woman who has been the object of repeated sexual abuse by her father finds a way to new life and independence. Part of the university's Year of Reconciliation. Mary Gray Munroe Theater, Dobbs University Center, 605 Asbury Circle, on the Emory campus. Please note that this performance contains adult, sexual content and is not recommended for younger audience members. $7 Emory students with i.d., $14 general admission.

7:30 p.m. Feb. 15
8 p.m. Feb. 16, 17, 22*, 23, 24, March 1, 2 and 3
2 p.m. Feb. 25.
3 p.m. March 3
* pay-what-you-can performance

Thursday and Friday, March 23-24
"Telaio: Desdemona," composed and performed by Susan Botti. In this operatic soliloquy, Botti weaves together the words spoken about the ill-fated Desdemona in Shakespeare's "Othello" with the poetry of 15th century Italian, female poet Gaspara Stampa. The production is sponsored by the Flora Glenn Candler Fund and is part of Women's History Month. 8 p.m. Mary Gray Munroe Theater, Dobbs University Center, 605 Asbury Circle, on the Emory campus. $10 Emory students with i.d., $20 general admission.

March 30-April 7
Brave New Works Marathon. 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. Featuring playwrights from throughout the United States and abroad. 7:30 p.m. Theater Laboratory, 117 Burlington Road Building, 1804 N. Decatur Rd., Emory. Free.

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 boxoffice@emory.edu. There are special discount rates available for groups of 10 or more.
Theater Emory is the producing organization of Emory University and is affiliated with the Department of Theater Studies. It is a constituent member of the Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national association of nonprofit professional theatres, and a member of the Atlanta Coalition of Theatres. It operates under a season agreement with Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.


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