Monday, October 1, 2012

All About October on Area Stages

Yes, it really is October. No fighting it. It's here.

But that means even more theatre options, as more fall seasons begin and productions open up all over. Including tomorrow night!

Illinois Wesleyan is the one with the Tuesday opening night, for Barbara Lebow's A Shayna Maidel, a heartfelt drama about the effects of separation and trauma on family. Rose Weiss has carved out a nice life for herself in America, a life that begins to unravel when Lusia, the sister who got left behind in Poland and swept away to a Nazi death camp, arrives in New York. A Shayna Maidel reunites the sisters, raising issues of what it means to be related, if it's possible to repair a schism that deep, and whether blood really does run deeper than water. Nancy B. Loitz directs IWU's A Shayna Maidel, with performances from October 2-6 at McPherson Theatre. Click here for ticket information.

Naomi Iizuka's Anony(mous) began performances last week at Illinois State University's Center for the Performing Arts, with a visually striking production directed by Richard Corley. The story of one boy's journey across America, looking to survive long enough to find some sense of home and family, continues through October 6, with 7:30 pm performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Iizuka's writing is beautiful and profound, and Anon(ymous) is definitely worth a look.

Opening October 4 at Community Players, Leaving Iowa by Tim Clue and Spike Manton may prove a sweet and funny choice for Baby Boomers. It's about a road trip taken by a guy named Don who needs to find a suitable place for Dad's ashes. The trip brings up memories of family vacations by car in the past, with a little nostalgia and a few tears around the curves.

Sally Parry directs Leaving Iowa for CP, with Gary Strunk as Don, Bob McLaughlin as Dad, Nancy Nickerson as Mom, and Blair Wright as Sis. It will be here for only four performances, closing with a 2:30 pm matinee on Sunday the 7th. Click here for more information or to start the ticket-buying process.

Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive shows the opposite side of families and cars. This compelling memory piece, which revolves around the damage inflicted by family dysfunction and sexual abuse, opens on the 4th at Urbana's Station Theatre. The play won a Pulitzer Prize for Vogel in 1998, with the original production taking home a slew of Obies and Drama Desk Awards. That production was directed by Mark Brokaw, who himself has ties to the Station Theatre. How I Learned to Drive plays at the Station from October 4 to October 20, with all performances at 8 pm.

ISU's second show of the year begins on that very popular 4th, as well. It's Rebecca Gilman's disturbing play, The Glory of Living, which looks at a young woman who has admittedly committed horrible crimes, including abetting rape and killing in cold blood. How can blame -- through the judicial system or otherwise -- be assigned for these heinous crimes? Did she ever have a chance? Was her life destined to be a horror show before it had even begun? Matthew Campbell directs The Glory of Living inside the intimate space at Centennial West 207, with performances from October 4 to 13.

And in case you thought there couldn't possible be any more shows opening on October 4... Au contraire! U of I's Department of Theatre is offering 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, a political "phantasmagoria of presidential impressions" that includes all 44 U.S. Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama.The Krannert Center website indicates that at least 44 colleges and universities are performing this play that comes from Chicago's Neo-Futurist troupe in conjunction with the 2012 presidential election.

Continuing this weekend is the annual Discovery Walk at Evergreen Cemetery, with costumed actors portraying historical figures from the community. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for this outdoor event last Saturday and Sunday, with record turnout both days. Expect crowds again this weekend if the weather holds. Tickets are on sale at the McLean County Museum of History, the Garlic Press, Casey's Garden Shop, and at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery itself.

Eureka College Theatre steps up to the plate with The Man Who Came to Dinner, the classic Kaufman and Hart comedy, playing October 9-14. I seem to recall Holly Rocke acting in ISU's production back a few years, which should give her an inside track on directing this new production in Eureka.

Can you spell ADORABLE? I love The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical with audience participation about kids striving to spell. Spelling Bee is the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company's first fall production. Since the CUTC doesn't have a space of its own, the show will be performed at Parkland College Theatre, with performances at 7:30 pm October 11 through 13 and at 2:30 pm on October 14.

Meryl Streep as Mother Courage in 2006
Bertolt Brecht's bold anti-war play, Mother Courage and her Children, hits ISU's Westhoff Theatre on October 18, with Sandi Zielinski directing a cast that includes Abby Vombrack in the title role. Mother Courage, AKA Canteen Anna, is a survivor, that's for sure, selling wares during wartime and making a tidy profit. But what does it gain her to collect cash if she loses all her children to the same conflict that fills her coffers?

A touring production of Fiddler on the Roof comes to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts on October 27 for one night only. Tickets range from $55 for primo seats in great locations to only $20 for kids in the back. The performance will take place at 7:30 pm with pre-show activities at 6:45. The BCPA isn't saying what particular Fiddler company this is, but it looks very much like the one that came through Peoria in 2010.

You may need to make some hard choices on the 4th, but otherwise... Lots and lots of nifty theatrical options await in October.

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