Friday, May 16, 2014

Sneak Peek at U of I's 2014-15 Theatre Season

In what is being called a "High energy, contemplative, unexpected, reverent, inspiring, and esteemed" season, the University of Illinois Krannert Center for the Performing Arts will showcase music, dance, drama, opera, circus, acrobats, the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and the Day of the Drum in its 2014-15 lineup of events.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 am on August 16th for all of these concerts, shows and celebrations, with the Opening Night Party featuring Mariachi Sol de México, Tiempo Libre and Samba Soul officially kicking off the fall season on September 12.

More details are promised for July 24, but in the meantime, here are the theatrical highlights that popped out at me.

Naomi Iizuka's version of Ovid's Metamorphoses, called Polaroid Stories, will open the Illinois Theatre season on October 2, 2014, with performances through the 12th. U of I's Department of Theatre has taken on Iizuka's darkly poetic work before with Anon(ymous) in the Studio Theatre several years ago. Polaroid Stories began its life at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 1997. Iizuka sees Ovid's characters as street punks and runaways in an unfriendly world of drugs, violence and danger. I remember being especially moved by her depiction of Narcissus as a self-absorbed gay hustler and Orpheus and Eurydice as a possessive, abusive boyfriend and the girl who can't get away.

Next up is Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth which won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, on stage at Krannert Center from October 16 to 26. Like Polaroid Stories, Skin of Our Teeth harkens back to an older source. In this case, it's the Bible, with that "skin of our teeth" title as well as references to Cain and Abel and maybe Noah's Ark sprinkled in among its journey from New Jersey on the brink of an Ice Age to a major flood and a major war. Through farce and folderol, Wilder tells the story of a regular old suburban family that manages to survive everything, by the skin of their teeth, of course.

Donizetti's comic opera The Elixir of Love, about a poor, besotted young man who procures a phony love potion in order to woo a wealthy girl, is on the schedule for November 6 to 9, followed by Oh What a Lovely War from November 11 to 16. Oh What a Lovely War,  a 1963 anti-war musical developed by Joan Littlewood and England's Theatre Workshop, was created by that ensemble company as a reaction to World War I, juxtaposing cheery period music with dire statistic and stories of war. You can read more about this seminal work here. That kind of expressionistic, collaborative work seems very 60s in retrospect. What will it look like in 2014, with a hundred years gone since World War I, the war to end all wars, began?

The Nutcracker will be back in December, and the Russian National Ballet will be back in January, this time with Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

From last year's Illinois Theatre production of Shakespeare's The Tempest
February brings Tango Buenos Aires, Circus Oz and a new chapter in The Sullivan Project, wherein Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan pulls together a new play and a first-rate cast of actors to offer Central Illinois audiences a look at how new dramatic works are developed nationally. Last year's Lost Lake by David Auburn will be part of the Manhattan Theatre Club's 2014-15 season, illustrating the potential for Sullivan project plays.

Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow checks in to close Februray and open March, with 'Tis Pity She's a Whore hot on its heels. 'Tis Pity is a 17th century tragedy written by John Ford. The common wisdom is that it was too incendiary for its time but is a lot more popular now, probably because of its tempestuous, incestuous plot, involving a brother and sister who are undone by their impossible passion for each other. Love! Murder! Poison! Torture! Revenge! Incestuous pregnancy! A heart on a stick! 'Tis Pity She's a Whore has it all. And you can see it from March 5 to 15 in 2015.

Tennessee Williams' Not About Nightingales, a prison drama written in the 1930s but not performed till the 90s,  comes to Krannert from April 9 to 19, followed by the Sondeim/Lapine musical Into the Woods for what appears to be four performances from the 23rd to the 26th. Sondheim and Lapine's fabulous fairytale and its not-so-happily-ever-after message need more than four performances if you ask me, but Cinderella, Rapunzel, the two Princes, the Witch, the Baker and his Wife, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his Mother (as well as his magical cow), plus the vengeful Giant, will make it all fit somehow.

Check out the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts website for details as they're added. And remember, tickets for these events as well as all the ones I didn't tell you about, like Renee Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, Rosanne Cash and the Chicago Symphony, go on sale August 16 at 10 am.

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