Fall drama festival
Highlights three works now in repertory
By Jane Ford
Hard-hitting issues are usually covered by stern-faced reporters on major news networks. But this fall they also will be discussed in three plays at U.Va. — one told from the perspective of dogs and wolves, one a farce about sex and politics and one a “choreopoem” (play in verse), during the Drama Department’s Fall Festival.
The three plays: “The Call of the Wild” by Jon Lipsky; “Cloud 9” by Caryl Churchill; and “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange are being shown in repertory through Nov. 17.
This selection “offers works that emphasize current and contemporary events that resonate around us,” said Drama Department Chairman Tom Bloom. In selecting the three works, the department was seeking new experiences and new energy, he said.
“You can see all three plays in a week,” said Marianne Kubik, assistant professor of drama and director of “The Call of the Wild.” Being able to see the plays in repertory (all three plays performed every few days) “will give the audience a feeling of what’s it’s like to be a regular theatergoer.”
The festival opened with a production of Obie Award-winning “Cloud 9” in the Helms Theatre on Nov. 3. Director Betsy Tucker described the play as a farce of Victorian sexuality and a cartoon of sex in the 1970s. “Cloud 9” more clearly articulates tensions that are more buried in our culture today,” she said. Tucker taught the play in class and realized that most students do not have any idea of the sexual politics of their parents’ generation, many of whom came of age in the 1970s. “It’s a big education for the students, which is why I chose the play,” Tucker said.
Part of the challenge for her in directing the play is that the students have no distance from the sexual politics of their own time.
Tucker staged “Cloud 9” in the black-box Helms Theatre to expose students to performing in the round. “It’s good training for the students and something our audiences are not used to,” she said of the play, being performed Nov. 4-5, 9-12 and 15-17 at 7:30 p.m.
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” opens on Friday, Nov. 4 in Culbreth Theatre, and also will play on Nov. 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 at 8 p.m. The play is directed by guest artist and professor Theresa M. Davis of West Virginia University. Drawn to the language and power of the script, Davis said she has wanted to direct the play for 15 years.
The ensemble of African-American actors examines timeless themes of love, loss, pain, loneliness and anger. “The message of the play is that there will be hard times, but if we can see the beauty in ourselves we will have the strength to move on,” Davis said. Written in 1974, the Obie Award-winning work was groundbreaking when it opened on Broadway — from its all-black cast to the introduction of the “choreopoem” form.
This form “invites audiences to participate,” Davis said. “It’s a call-and-response nature of the play that I am hoping to share with the audience.”
The third Fall Festival offering, “The Call of the Wild,” opens on Nov. 5. Combining and adapting Jack London’s classic novels of Alaskan adventure, “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang,” playwright Lipsky explores themes of humanity and unconditional love. Director and choreographer Kubik was drawn to the new play because of the experimental quality of the work. The play has been performed only a few times and is continuously being workshopped, Kubik said. Many of the characters are animals and the musicians are on stage. The music, which is not tightly scored, blends music hall, honky-tonk and folk styles with improvisation. Lipsky and composer Bill Barclay visited during rehearsals to work with the cast.
“The students knew they were entering new territory and were willing to try new things,” Kubik said. “They have been up for experimenting.”
“Call of the Wild” will be performed in the Culbreth Theatre Nov. 5, 7, 9, 11, 15 and 17 at 8 p.m.
Tickets for adults are $16 for “Call of the Wild” and $14 for the other two plays. Discounts are available for students and senior citizens. Season tickets also are available. U.Va. students may purchase tickets using ARTS$Dollars.
For more information, call the Drama Department Box Office at 924-3376 or visit http://www.virginia.edu/drama. The box office is open Monday through Friday, 1 to 6 p.m.