Friday, May 4, 2012

Adventure, Music and Drama at U of I's Summer Studio

The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign has announced the selections for this year's Summer Studio Theatre at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Krannert's summer season begins June 1, but tickets go on sale Monday, May 7th, for three shows and one special cabaret offered for only two nights in June.

"Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself)" is first up, opening June 1 in the Studio Theatre. This picaresque adventure is by Donald Margulies, who won a Pulitzer Prize for "Dinner With Friends." "Shipwrecked" couldn't be more different from that realistic look at marital woes and friendship; this one is about a young man, the same Louis de Rougement mentioned in the title, who takes off from London on a ship-board journey, only to encounter a shipwreck, an octopus, an Aborigine romance, and a place back in London as a storyteller of tall tales. With eight performances from June 1 to 22, "Shipwrecked" begins the Summer Studio season.

Then there's "Gone Missing," a collection of songs and sketches based on the lost and not necessarily found. What kind of lost items are we talking about? How about "a black Gucci pump, an uncle’s fortune, Sniffle the doll, Atlantis, a sweetheart’s photo, various body parts. Based on interviews with New Yorkers, this witty musical tracks emotional and philosophical responses to life’s transient pleasures and the many ways we cope." Sounds intriguing, even though I just found the sweater I'd been missing for awhile. Sometimes, there are happy endings (although the missing body parts thing sounds ominous.) "Gone Missing" opens June 7, with ten performances before June 23.

"Gone Missing" was created by the Civilians, who bill themselves as "investigative theater." This piece was written by Steve Cosson, based on interviews conducted by the company, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.

A two-night cabaret called "Sprung and Awakened" will spring into the Studio Theatre on June 16 and 17, with Paul Johnston on the piano and Kent Conrad offering his vocal stylings on the subject of change. "Using a mixture of biography and invented truths, a series of meditations on the effects of change—real or imagined—are presented through monologue and song," Krannert's press materials tell us.

And the last show for the summer will be "The Diary of Anne Frank," newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman from the 1955 play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, telling the story of a young girl sent into hiding with her family to escape from the Nazis during World War II. Bright, lovely Anne Frank tries to maintain her optimism and hope for the future, even as the world turns very dark outside. U of I's summer production will feature local adult actors from the Champaign-Urbana community as well as younger actors Dominique Allen and Max Keagle.

"Anne Frank" will have the Studio Theatre to itself for 12 performances from July 5 to 21.

You can order your tickets beginning at 10 am on Monday the 7th, with a variety of options. You can shop online at, phone the box office at 800-527-2849 or 217-333-6280, email, or visit the ticket office in person at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on the U of I campus between 10 am and 6 pm daily.


  1. "Shipwrecked" is very interesting as a piece of theater (I haven't seen it, know it only from photographs and reading about the NY production).

    It's for 3 actors: the central one who represents the protagonist, and 2 in support. It's enacted in semi-Story Theater style, with the secondary actors also supplying the soundtrack (visibly creating sound effects or music). That original production starred a favorite of mine, Michael Countryman (we remember him as the mentally challenged man who was befriended by Kate & Allie and remained a recurring character, and I've seen him in Ayckbourn [House & Garden] and Gray [The Common Pursuit]) as Louis. The supporting guy was Jeremy Bobb (whom I saw at Encores as the leprechaun in Finian's Rainbow -- he was replaced for Bway), who enacted, among others, the dog who keeps the shipwrecked Louis company, and Queen Elizabeth.

  2. I love that kind of thing (Story Theater, semi-Story Theater, Nicholas Nickleby, whatever). No word yet on who they've cast, but I do have some guesses. U of I used to use students (grad and undergrad) in its summer rep, but not so much anymore. They keep going with shows with very small casts and then using faculty and a local actor or two. But "Shipwrecked" sounds like it could be fun for student actors.

  3. Argh -- Queen Victoria, of course, not Elizabeth. I do know the difference, despite appearances.