The English-language world premiere of a darkly comic operetta written by a Holocaust survivor while imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp – the script for which was smuggled out of the camp -- is one highlight of the exciting lineup for the University of Southern Maine (USM) 2013-2014 Season.
The USM Theatre season includes: Night Sky, a comedic drama by Susan Yankowitz, award-winning playwright; The Cripple of Inishmaan, a dark comedy by Martin McDonagh, world-renowned playwright; Doubt, a Tony Award-winning drama by John Patrick Shanley; The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a musical murder mystery by Rupert Holmes, based on a Charles Dickens novel; and In the Underworld, a darkly comic operetta by Germaine Tillion, a French Holocaust survivor who wrote the script while imprisoned in WWII Ravenbrück concentration camp for women.
“The USM Department of Theatre is proud to present the 2013-2014 season, which promises to not only entertain a variety of audiences, but also to inspire educational discussion and activities,” said Charles Kading, Professor of Theatre and department chair.
“We have a very strong, talented group of student actors who deliver remarkable performances,” Kading said. “Our directors are working professionals who each have the capability of drawing the best work possible out of performers.”
Each production brings forth educational experiences for students, as well as opportunities for collaboration among departments at USM and partnerships with organizations throughout the state.
The subject matter of the season-opener, Night Sky, directed by Assunta Kent, Associate Professor of Theatre, has inspired an academic panel discussion which will involve the Department of Theatre, the Women and Gender Studies Program and the Office of Academic Affairs for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity. The panel discussion, “Women, Science and the Night Sky,” will take place at 2:45 p.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8 in the USM Planetarium, Portland campus.
Thomas Power, Professor of Theatre will direct The Cripple of Inishmaan, a dark comedy set on the island of Inishmaan, off the coast of Ireland. Power has dual citizenship in Ireland and the U.S. and will share his expertise of his home country with the show’s cast.
The production of Doubt, a ripped-from-the-headlines drama directed by William Steele, Professor of Theatre, will take place off-campus in The Studio Theatre at Portland Stage.
“Every season we present one production in Portland,” Kading said. “We tend to sell out the productions we feature at Portland Stage. We usually have four performances and this year we’ll have eight.”
Each year the USM Department of Theatre and School of Music partner to co-produce a musical or opera. This year they will present the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a comical murder mystery where the audience plays detective, directed by Wil Kilroy, Professor of Theatre, with musical direction by Edward Reichert, Lecturer in Musical Theatre for the School of Music.
“The partnership allows musicians from the School of Music to play for the musical, thereby gaining experience as part of a theatrical orchestra,” said Kilroy. “The resources from the Department of Theatre, including professional set, costume and lighting design, allow the vocal music students to participate in a fully mounted production.
“Theatre students cast in the musical are encouraged to take private voice lessons and benefit from having a musical director work with them on their singing and musicianship,” said Kilroy.
Collaborative efforts are under way for In the Underworld, an operetta directed by Meghan Brodie, Assistant Professor of Theatre, with musical direction by Jonathan Marro, School of Music alumnus, to involve the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine with educational aspects of the production. The production is partially funded by the Dimmer-Bergstrom Fund.
Audiences are encouraged to reserve their seats for each show ahead of time, especially for the crowd favorite, “$5 at Five,” a Wednesday matinee (for “Night Sky,” a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee) with all tickets available for just $5 ($10 for the musical).
“Five at five is wildly successful,” said Kading. “It normally sells out. It’s a great time of day to bring kids to the show and still get them home in time for bed.”
Three of the five productions, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and In the Underworld feature a 10 a.m. Tuesday high school matinee, which is open to large groups of high school students. It’s an opportunity for students to experience professionally-produced theatre and for teachers to build educational activities around the subject matter of the show.
USM Theatre 2013-2014 Season at a Glance
All performances take place on the Main Stage of Russell Hall, USM Gorham campus, with the exception of Doubt, which takes place in The Studio Theatre at Portland Stage.
- Night Sky
A comedic drama by Susan Yankowitz
Directed by Assunta Kent
7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10
7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11
2 p.m. (all seats $5) and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12
5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 13
A female astronomer, an opera singer and a teen foreign-language learner cooped up in a small New York apartment search for words -- to express their yearnings, frustrations and, ultimately, their love. When the pressure gets too high, they explode. What bonds hold us together as lovers, family and friends? Humans have always looked for answers in the Night Sky!
- The Cripple of Inishmaan
A dark comedy by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Thomas Power
7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15 and Nov. 22
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16 and Nov. 23
5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 17 and Nov. 24
10 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 19; high school matinee
5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 20; all seats $5
7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21
Martin McDonagh’s comic masterpiece is set on the tiny island of Inishmaan off the coast of Ireland. The arrival of a Hollywood film crew threatens to turn their idyllic life upside down and “Cripple Billy” wants to be in the film more than anyone – if only to escape the tedium of small-town life. This not-to-be-missed dark comedy is from one of the theater’s most original Irish voices.
A drama by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by William Steele
7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 7 and Feb. 14
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8 and Feb. 15
5 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 9 and Feb. 16
5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 12; all seats $5
7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13
Performances take place off-campus at The Studio Theatre at Portland Stage
What happened between the progressive Father Flynn and a troubled young boy behind closed doors in a Catholic school in 1964? The truth may set us free -- but how do we get to the truth? This ripped-from-the-headlines drama is a roller coaster of suspicion, accusation, defense, paranoia, persecution and equivocation. And that most troubling and nagging of human emotions: Doubt.
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood
A murder mystery musical by Rupert Holmes
Directed by Wil Kilroy
Musical Direction by Edward Reichert
Choreography by Vanessa Beyland
A co-production with the USM School of Music
7:30 p.m., Friday, March 14 and March 21
7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 15 and March 22
7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 16 and March 23
10 a.m., Tuesday, March 18; high school matinee
5 p.m., Wednesday, March 19; all seats $10
7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 20
Charles Dickens died before he could finish his extraordinary murder novel, and that is only the beginning of the mystery. Both sinister and hilarious, this Tony Award-winning musical picks up where Dickens left off. This is like no theater you’ve ever seen, where the audience plays detective and even votes on who the murderer is. Come see the show that is never the same twice!
- In the Underworld
A darkly comic operetta by Germaine Tillion
Directed by Meghan Brodie
Musical Direction by Jonathan Marro
Translation by Annie and Karl Bortnick
Musical Arrangement and Composition by Christophe Maudot
7:30 p.m., Friday, April 18 and April 25
7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 19 and April 26
5 p.m., Sunday, April 20 and April 27
10 a.m., Tuesday, April 22; high school matinee
5 p.m., Wednesday, April 23; all seats $5
7: 30 p.m., Thursday, April 24
Join us for a major theater event! While imprisoned in Ravensbrück concentration camp, French author Germaine Tillion secretly wrote an operetta that turned her own experiences into a powerful testament to the triumph of humanity. Satirical, searing, and altogether unexpected, In the Underworld is the English-language world premiere of the extraordinary operetta first produced in France in 2007.
The production has received generous support from the Dimmer-Bergstrom Fund.
Tickets for each production go on sale one month prior to opening night. A season Flex Pass is available at any time.
For tickets or Flex Passes, go to: http://www.usm.maine.edu/theatre and click on “Purchase Tickets,” or call the USM Theatre Box Office at (207) 780-5151.
Plays: $15, general admission; $11, seniors, USM employees and alumni; $8, students
Musical: $21, general admission; $15, seniors, USM employees and alumni; $10, students
Flex Pass: Just $45 for six tickets, to be used in any combination (limit two for the musical).
High School Matinee: Contact the USM Theatre Box Office at (207) 780-5151.