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Theatre Studies News - October 2013

It would seem that UPEI performing arts is on a roll.  Recently, Brittany Banks, who majored in Music and Minored in Theatre, has been accepted to Randolf Academy.  Those who frequented the vocal concerts in Steel will certainly recognize Brittany.  As well, she proved everyone wrong by successfully playing against type in Vagabond's acclaimed Taming of the Screw.  Her performance as Kate showed that Brittany was an accomplished actor with a bright future ahead.  Everyone in the Vagabond tribe wishes Brittany well on the next steps of her journey. 

Are You Interested in Theatre @ UPEI?

You can email Justin Shaw and he will put you on the email list, or he will provide you with more information.  As well, keep checking the Theatre Studies home page. You can also drop by Main 334 to talk to Dr. Greg Doran, Coordinator of Theatre Studies, anytime to find out how to get involved.

The Latest News

A Busy Summer

If anyone attended any number of shows this summer, you would quickly realize that little happened this summer that did not have a member of the Theatre Studies Program in it.  From Evageline, Anne and Gilbert to Midsummer Night's Dream and beyond, the stages of PEI were littered with the talented actors of the program.  The summer rounded out nicely during the Fringe show, with a number of shows highlighting the talents of UPEI's students.  If you wonder why students participate in Theatre, this summer provided the answer.  Dr, Greg Doran, Coordinator of Theatre Studies said: "I am exceptionally proud of all of them.  They have shown the best of what the program has on offer."

Auditions

Auditions for Vagabond's production of Electra

Once again, the good ship Vagabond will be setting sail with a new production, This year, we are getting really classical with The Electra of Euripides.  Auditions will be held November 4, 5 & 6 in The Faculty Lounge in Main, 6:30 to 9:30 nightly.  It is a cold audition, so there is nothing to prepare.  Simply show up if interested.  The show has a variable cast size, and the Director will be looking to fill 4 male parts and a minimum of 4 female parts.  The number of female parts could be larger, depending on the quality of the auditions.  Previous experience is not a requirement, nor is being enrolled in the Theatre Studies Program.  Anyone can audition.  For more information, you can contact Dr. Greg Doran, Coordinator of Theatre Studies and Director of the show. 

ACT Audtions for Inherit The Wind

Background

Inherit the Wind is a play based on a real courtroom case, the so-called “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925, in the town of Dayton, Tennessee.  At that time, and right until 1967, the state had a law against the teaching of evolution in its schools.  A number of local citizens decided to challenge this law with a show trial – chiefly in order to profit from the publicity.  They persuaded John Scopes, a substitute teacher (who might have presented the evolution chapter from the state-sponsored textbook he was using, in one class period; he couldn’t remember), to act as defendant, and they persuaded two famous national figures to be counsels on either side.  For the prosecution they secured William Jennings Bryan, a fundamentalist Christian who had been the Democratic nominee for President three times, and for the defence they had a famous Chicago lawyer, Clarence Darrow, an agnostic who had recently defended two notorious killers.  The two were considered to be among the greatest orators of their day.

During the trial the Judge refused to hear any of the defence’s expert witnesses, ruling that their plausible explanations of evolution were irrelevant to the question of whether Scopes had broken the law.  In a highly irregular proceeding, Darrow called Bryan himself was as an expert witness on the Bible, in order to ridicule his views on creation.  The tactic worked – but still, Scopes was found guilty.

This trial, a battle of giants -- which pitted a literal interpretation of the Bible against modern science, unexamined faith against the right to think, the rural U.S. south against the urbanized north – did indeed garner publicity.  In fact it was the first-ever media circus.  It was covered by 200 journalists, who daily filed about 165,00 words that went round the world.  It was the first trial to be broadcast on live radio.  Hawkers of all kinds came to town to profit from the crowds.  Trained chimpanzees performed on the courthouse lawn.  Today the courthouse itself is preserved as an historic landmark, and features re-enactments of parts of the trial.

Both sides claimed victory, the fundamentalists because the law was upheld (though Scopes was fined only $100 and the verdict was later overturned on a technicality), and the modernists because widespread scorn was heaped on the other side.

The Play

Inherit the Wind was first performed in 1955.  It played on Broadway for two years, and at the Old Vic in London, and it has been revived in professional and amateur theatres many times.  It was made into a movie and into films for television, with famous actors in the leading roles.  The authors, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, have said that in 1955 they wanted to draw attention to another attack on freedom of thought, the witch-hunts of the McCarthy era.  But the play’s original theme continues to resonate on its own, and is sufficient reason for further performances.  Creationism, as we now call it, is far from dead and the theory of evolution is far from explaining everything.  There are many – including President George W. Bush – who argue that the two sides should be given equal footing in schools.  Many church-goers are not sure what to make of the Biblical story of creation, and many non-religious people are quite ignorant of modern evolutionary theory.  In any case, the fight against unthinking dogmatism must be taken up by every generation.

The play is fine courtroom drama.  To enhance the drama it takes several liberties with the facts, and the preface explicitly rejects the notion that the play is “history.”  The names of the two leading characters are changed to Matthew Harrison Brady and Henry Drummond.  A real-life, wise-cracking journalist, H.L. Mencken (who invented the phrase “monkey trial”) is here E.K. Hornbeck, who provides an element of humour in the play.  John Scopes is Bertram Cates.  There are many other fascinating characters in the cast, some entirely fictitious: Rev. Jeremiah Brown who preaches hell-fire for sinners like Cates; his daughter Rachel, who loves Cates but is under her father’s thumb and is impressed by Brady; the biased Judge; the Mayor; the Jailer; two children in Cates’ class, a mountain man; a radio broadcaster; Brady’s wife; members of the jury and the Ladies’ Aid, and other townspeople.   The town itself is “Hillsboro,” which could be almost any town in the American south.  So strong and popular is the play that many viewers take it to be, literally, the Scopes Monkey Trial.

This Production

ACT (a community theatre) and Trinity United Church have combined to put on this drama April 24-27, 2014, in Trinity’s church hall.  The first two performances will be dinner theatre.  For all performances, auditioners who don’t secure a speaking part will be invited to be characters in the drama, townspeople in costume, who freely ad lib their own attitudes towards the trial, as they welcome the visitors to their town, serve them food, and take as much money from them as they can.  There are twenty speaking roles.  They include only four parts for women, but the Director may dress some women as men.  The extras as above can be of either gender, all female if necessary. 

Rehearsals will begin by mid-January, with breaks for March break and Easter week.  The Director is John Moses, the Minister at Trinity United, who has directed this play elsewhere, as well as several other plays at Trinity.  The Stage Manager is Sharon MacDonald (Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) who has taught the play in high school.  The Producer is Jennifer Shields, and the Costume Designer is Pam Jewell.  Other team members are Terry Pratt and Rob Thomson.

Auditions

Auditions are at Trinity United Church, Prince Street, Charlottetown, on Saturday and Sunday, November 23-24, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Experience is not a requirement.  Contact Sharon MacDonald for an appointment (sheamacd@gmail.com, or 432-2317).  Auditioners have the option of preparing a short monologue from any modern play.  They will also be asked to read from Inherit the Wind.  Successful auditioners must be either members of the Trinity congregation or members of ACT.  They should also be prepared to assist this show or another as crew members, in the spirit of community theatre. 

Improv Nights

I have it on good authority that there will be more Improv evenings this year. For more information, you can email the Theatre Society.

Monologue Night

The annual monologue night for the Theatre 244 class is scheduled for November 25 in the Faculty Lounge in Main.  The doors will open at 7, with the show starting at 7:30 pm.  As always, admission is a donation of either non-perishable food or cash, with all proceeds going to the Campus Food Bank.  For more information, you can contact Dr. Greg Doran, Coordinator of Theatre Studies at Greg Doran or call 566-6013.

Productions                                     

Keep checking this space for Production notices.

BAM!! A Night of David Icves One Act Plays!

This November, the UPEI Theatre Society is pleased to present “BAM!! A Night of David Ives One Act Plays!” This show will feature three comedic one act plays written by David Ives, organized by a number of talented UPEI students.

First, we have English Made Simple. This romantic comedy features two young lovers attempting to form a relationship, all while trying to say what they mean, and mean what they say. Directed by Toni Timmins and
featuring Malachi Rowswell, Brynn Cutcliffe, and Keir Malone, this comedy will leave you laughing and marvelling over the absurd amount of rhetoric that is attached to romance.

Next, The Variations on the Death of Trotsky will examine the rather peculiar sequence of events leading up to the death of Russian political theorist, Leon Trotsky. This show features Cameron MacDonald, Alexandra
Durant, and Keir Malone, and is directed by Justin Shaw.  By the end of this show, you'll think twice about what happens every time a bell rings.

Lastly, the night is capped off with the a lesson in language, life, and communication. The Universal Language is directed by Courtney Starkman, and features Robert Crossley and Lana Mill. This tale examines the bizarre qualities of language, while examining how communication can not only both bring people together, but also push people apart.

While his work is primarily comedic, Ives' plays offer more to the audience than just a chance to laugh. By bending the conventions of theatre, and adding in his own comedic flair, Ives brings to light some of the more
thoughtful qualities of the human condition. The desire to find love, to understand life, and to communicate with the world are all themes touched on in Ives work, and the UPEI Theatre Society is eager to share these ideas
with the public.

This production will enjoy a three show run on November 14, 15 and 16 in the Faculty Lounge in Main Building on the UPEI Campus. The doors open at 7pm with a 7:30 showtime. Admission is only available at the door, and costs only $5  per person.  At BAM!! A Night of One Act Plays, an evening of hilarity awaits you!  For more information, contact Justin Shaw

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