MADISON – The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s University Theatre (UT) takes the concept of teamwork to new heights in its 2008-09 season, partnering with three different Madison producing organizations to offer new and varied learning experiences for the students that UT serves.
“We feel an immense responsibility to the students we train, to offer them opportunities to hone their distinctive specialties, whether it be acting, design, research or technical production,” says Tony Simotes, director of University Theatre. “When the timing is right, as it is for several collaborations this year, we are thrilled to work with these companies and know that the public will benefit from the partnerships as well.”
The UT season offerings begin in late September with a follow-up to last year’s successful radio drama, which featured a live broadcast of one performance of David Mamet’s “The Water Engine” on Wisconsin Public Radio’s popular program “Old Time Radio Drama.” This fall UT takes on one of the most famous radio plays of all time, staging the radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ famous novel “The War of the Worlds.”
Originally adapted by Howard Koch for Orson Welles’ theater company, the Mercury Players on the Air, this radio play brought a nation to near hysteria when it was originally broadcast on Oct. 30, 1938. Unaware that it was simply the Halloween offering by WABC, thousands of listeners who tuned in that evening were convinced that aliens were landing in Grovers Mills, N.J. For UT’s staging, Simotes will enlist the help of Norman Gilliland of Wisconsin Public Radio to serve as an actor, as well as producer of the live broadcast, which will air at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4. The complete run dates for the show are Friday, Sept. 26-Saturday, Oct. 11.
Next is a partnership with University Opera, which is producing Franz Lehár’s Viennese operetta “The Merry Widow.” Sheri Williams Pannell, an MFA directing student in her final year of study, will direct this timeless classic, which was considered quite bold and risqué when it swept the United Stated in the early 20th century. It’s now become the gold standard by which other similar works are judged. “The Merry Widow” will play for three performances, Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, Oct. 24, 26 and 28 at UW-Madison’s Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall.
Also finishing up an MFA in directing this season, Talish Barrow will take the helm of “The Love of the Nightingale,” which plays in the Hemsley Theatre from Friday, Oct. 17-Saturday, Nov. 1. Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker’s retelling of the ancient Greek myth of the rape of Philomela is a powerful drama highlighting sisterly love and spousal betrayal. Hemsley Theatre is located in Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.
The Greek theme carries through to UT’s third partnership of the season, this time with Madison Repertory Theatre. A large troupe of UW-Madison students and faculty, including 13 actors and at least six design/production/research personnel will travel up State Street to collaborate on Madison Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Greeks.”
Featuring guest director and Suzuki acting specialist Tom Blair, the production highlights themes that both partners feel are timely in the nation’s political and economic climate. Trevin Gay, acting artistic director of Madison Repertory Theatre, explains, “Two signature aspects of Madison are its socio-political awareness and the fact that it is home to a respected university. The coupling of producing this play while collaborating with UW-Madison is a great offering to Madison residents, whether they be lovers of theatrical and/or Grecian history, political activists or university students and alumni. This collaboration will bring to the stage a powerful evening dealing with one of the central concerns of our era: war and its aftermath.” The Greeks will run in the The Playhouse at the Overture Center for the Arts from Friday-Sunday, Nov. 7-23.
UT will kick off 2009 with an entertaining offering from the Bard, mounting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Mitchell Theatre from Friday, Feb. 27-Saturday, March 14. Norma Saldivar will direct this popular Shakespearean comedy, which will feature several graduating MFA acting students. Mitchell Theatre is located in Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.
Next up will be UT’s annual “Theatre for Youth” production. “Falling Girls,” by renowned Dutch playwright Moniek Merkx, is a special story about the friendship between two young girls and their artist guide who go on a nontraditional exploration of imagination and creativity. Targeted for ages 4 and up, this intimate production in Hemsley Theatre will feature interactive participation with the audience. Public performance dates are Saturday, March 28-Saturday, April 4.
Two-time Tony award nominee and UW-Madison alumnus André De Shields, will make Madison his temporary residence in the spring of 2009 when he comes to direct and choreograph UT’s final show of the season, “Hair – The American Tribal Love Rock Musical.” De Shields is no stranger to this groundbreaking musical, as the Chicago production was his first professional job. Forty years after its Broadway debut, the play’s themes of rebellion and unquenchable optimism still resonate today. “Hair” will be presented in the Mitchell Theatre from Friday, April 17- Saturday, May 2.
Tickets for UT productions go on sale on Monday, Aug. 18. Prices are $20 for general public or $14 for UW-Madison students. Discounts are available for children, senior citizens and Friends of University Theatre. Purchase tickets or request a season brochure at either UW-Madison Campus Arts Ticketing Services Office: the Vilas Hall Box Office, 821 University Ave., (608) 262-1500, or the Wisconsin Union Box Office, 800 Langdon St., (608) 262-2201, or order at http://www.utmadison.com or http://www.arts.wisc.edu.
Ticket prices for “The Greeks” vary based on subscription options as well as discounts available on single ticket prices. For information about subscribing to the Madison Repertory Theatre, call (608) 256-0029 ext. 23. Single tickets for “The Greeks” go on sale through the Overture Center box office beginning Friday, Aug. 29. Tickets prices for University Opera’s “The Merry Widow” are $20 for adults and $10 for UW-Madison students and will be available in the fall at either of the Campus Arts Ticketing Services offices in the Union Theater or in Vilas Hall.