Muhlenberg College ‘New Visions’ Festival Showcases Directorial Talents, Nov. 30 – Dec. 4

Allentown, PA — Two talented Muhlenberg College senior directing students will present their work in Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance’s “New Visions Directors’ Festival: Falling,” Nov. 30 – Dec. 4.

The evening includes 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde’s “Salome,” based on the biblical tale of the beheading of John the Baptist, and 20th century playwright Sam Shepard’s ominous exploration of Cold War anxiety, “Icarus’s Mother.”

“Despite the fact that ‘Salome’ is classical in style and ‘Icarus’ uses American vernacular, the plays complement each other,” says “Icarus’s Mother” director Karina Fox. “They are both about identity and self-acceptance in a judgmental universe.”

Oscar Wilde’s “Salome,” directed by Simon Evans, tells the biblical story of Salome, Princess of Judea, stepdaughter of Herod, the lecherous ruler. Salome’s affections lie with the prophet Iokanaan (John the Baptist), who rejects her sexual advances. To Herod’s delight, Salome finally agrees to dance the infamous Dance of the Seven Veils. When Herod offers her anything she wants in return, Salome makes a startling and gruesome demand.

In a departure from theatrical tradition, all of the characters in this production of “Salome” are performed by female actors.  

“We are creating a sort of parallel universe where men do not exist and female queerness and sexuality can be celebrated,” Evans says. “I want to explore how women can be empowered through their bodies and through their actions.”

Evans says he hopes to create a world the late playwright would have been proud to experience.

“I think the queering of the tale is really true to Wilde’s vision,” he says. “I’m trying to pay tribute to a really brilliant man who had some really awful stuff happen to him.” Oscar Wilde died destitute and humiliated after his imprisonment for homosexuality.

Evans says he hopes to create “beautiful stage pictures while really allowing the bodies onstage to tell the story.” He sees this production as a collaborative effort among himself, the production team, and the show’s 13 actresses.

“I’m really interested in working with my collaborators and finding what feels best for everybody,” he says. “I’m definitely open to new things, and allowing for work to go in directions I never expected.”

Collaboration is a value Evans shares with “Icarus’s Mother” director Karina Fox.

“I love to work directly and collaboratively with actors because the show belongs to all of us,” she says.

In “Icarus’s Mother,” by Sam Shepard, a lazy picnic develops into a surreal nightmare. While a group of young picnickers waits for the fireworks, they start acting bizarrely — sending smoke signals from the barbecue, playing cruel mind games, and play-acting disasters. The group dynamic spins into chaos, and the disastrous fantasies somehow become a fiery reality.

“In this piece, Shepard takes a seemingly perfect world and allows it to devolve into something mysterious, complex, and even terrifying,” Fox says.

Like Evans, Fox draws a lot of inspiration from her playwright.

“I chose this play because of Shepard,” she says. “I think he’s one of our most insightful modern playwrights. He creates really complicated dramatic worlds that explore what it means to be human in new and inventive ways.”

“Shepard is widely produced and well-beloved,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to work with one of his earlier, less-produced works because I have a chance to really make it my own.”

Fox’s actors have spent the past few months of rehearsal digging deeply into the world of the play, examining group dynamics and trying to figure out what they would do in the face of crisis, she says.

This play was written in 1965, in the shadow of the Cold War. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination were recent memory, and anxieties ran high. Fox says the play’s uneasiness comes across as very contemporary in today’s similarly tense environment.

“I’m excited for the audience to experience the raw, human emotions that Shepard has created on the page,” she says. “It’s a fun play, but it’s also full of mystery and suspense. You will laugh as much as you are terrified.”

“New Visions Directors’ Festival: Falling” plays Nov. 30 – Dec. 4. Recommended for mature audiences. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Regular admission tickets are $15. Tickets for youth and LVAIC students and staff are $8.

Tickets and information are available online at muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Studio Theatre in Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 West Chew St., Allentown.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg College is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, PA., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

TOYS IN THE ATTIC (drama) Now Playing At The Tri-County Performing Arts Center, Pottstown

TOYS IN THE ATTIC

By Lillian Hellman
Presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service
Parental Guidance Suggested*

Meet Carrie and Anna Berniers, two sisters living in genteel poverty who have sacrificed their own ambitions for those of their ne’er-do-well younger brother, Julian, whose grandiose dreams repeatedly lead to financial disasters. When Julian unexpectedly returns home accompanied by his emotionally unstable, childlike bride Lily, her aloof, aristocratic mother Albertine, and an unexplained large sum of money, Carrie and Anna suddenly find the position of power they always have held becomes unbalanced, leaving their lives in chaos. Tension steadily rises with the deception lying beneath the outwardly calm surface of this southern town. Funny and poignant, dangerous and passionate, TOYS IN THE ATTIC is a powerful and revealing drama by one of America’s most accomplished female playwrights.

TOYS IN THE ATTIC (March 8 – 25)

Thursdays Mar 8 (preview)  Mar 15 & 22 7:30 pm

Fridays Mar 9, 16 & 23 8:00 pm

Saturdays Mar 10, 17 & 24 8:00 pm

Tickets
ADULT: Thurs $18; Fri, Sat & Sun $21
STUDENT/SR (65+): Thurs $16; Fri, Sat & Sun $19
CHILD (12 & under): Thurs $13; Fri, Sat & Sun $15

245 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA  19464

(610) 970-1199

http://www.villageproductions.org/ToysintheAttic.html

“La Dispute” Depicts A Philosophical Battle Of The Sexes

First page of The Dispute (1744) by Pierre de ...

Image via Wikipedia

Marivaux’s 18th century French comedy, onstage
at Muhlenberg College Feb. 24-27, explores questions
of infidelity through a shocking sociological experiment

Allentown, Pa. (Feb. 3, 2011)—What would happen if you raised three boys and three girls in complete isolation from each other and the outside world—and then introduced them to one another? Would they fall in love? Promise to be loyal? How long would it take before the betrayals began? And who would be the first to stray, the women or the men?

Just such an experiment is at the heart of Pierre de Marivaux‘s mischievous 1744 comedy “La Dispute,” on stage Feb. 24-27 at Muhlenberg College. The play is shot through with romance, playful language and situational comedy, says director Francine Roussel, an associate professor in Muhlenberg’s theater and dance department. But it also gives the audience some food for thought.

“You leave the play with these nagging questions,” she says. “It is not as light as it seems.”

Though more 250 years old, the play continues to resonate with modern audiences and modern actors, Roussel says.

“At college, we are dealing with young people who fortunately fall in love and fall out of love,” she says. “That subject is relevant to any time. Is it in human nature, or is it a product of a civilization, era or culture?”

“La Dispute” begins with an argument: a prince and his courtiers have been debating whether men or women are more likely to unfaithful in love. To settle the dispute, the prince has concocted an experiment whereby six children spend their entire childhood and adolescence alone, with a pair of servant caretakers as their only human companions. At the age of 18, the children are introduced to each other, and couples form quickly. The lovers start out swearing their devotion, but they soon face their first temptations. The prince—and the audience—then watch as the results unfold.

“The temptation seems impossible to resist,” Roussel says. “The truth of human behavior is visible in these young people. They are constantly discovering the world around them and the world within themselves. These are the conditions of a serious experiment.”

As with all scientific endeavors, more questions than answers come out of this subversive experiment.

“It is a play that is philosophical in nature, just like anything in that century,” Roussel says. “Marivaux himself had that bent. His theater questions the philosophy of life. In the 18th century, literature and philosophy fell in love with science.

“I’m amazed at the refinement and sophistication of his language,” she says, “his knowledge of the human heart and of the infinite subtleties of human behavior, and his power to make that society aware of its class system and its need to change.”

Roussel says that the play displays a social agenda that was surprisingly progressive for its time. She is particularly interested in Marivaux’s depiction of the two black servants who have raised the children.

“The young people say horrible things about their guardians, totally racial, not politically correct things. I’m sure people will react to that,” Roussel says. “But Marivaux was way ahead of his time. He used provocative language to raise important social questions. He wrote a play about the emancipation of women and the emancipation of slaves. He had a real social consciousness.”

Roussel says she was interested in visualizing the cruelty of the experiment itself — an approach she discussed with scenic designer Curtis Dretsch. Dretsch designed a set he says is meant to invoke “a combination zoo enclosure and operating theatre,” in which the characters enter a central space from their separate cages of isolation.

 “I have really questioned where the children come from, the damage done to them, and where they will go,” Roussel says. “I wanted the set to address these issues.”

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. Princeton ranks Muhlenberg’s theater program sixth in the nation, and The Princeton Review and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

“La Dispute” performances are Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 24-26, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.

“La Dispute” performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.