Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sunday on TCM: Celebrating Scores with Fred Astaire, ON THE TOWN, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

Turner Classic Movies is pulling out an array of wonderful musical movies during the day tomorrow, then turning to some Academy Award winners as part of Day 29 of its 31 Days of Oscar celebration. The musicals that form TCM's schedule from 5:30 am to 7 pm Central time were also touched by Oscar, with multiple nominations for their music and scoring, and wins, too.

At the crack of dawn, it's Gold Diggers of 1933, one of the best backstage musicals from Warner Brothers. This dizzy, fizzy delight gives us Joan Blondell and Ruby Keeler as wannabe chorus girls, Dick Powell as a songwriter enamored of Ruby, and Ginger Rogers as the girl who sings "We're in the Money" in pig latin.  If you can get up at 5:30 am Central time (or set the VCR), Gold Diggers of 1933 is well worth your time. If you're keeping score, it earned a nomination for Best Sound Recording in 1934.

At 7:15 am, Ginger and Fred Astaire take center stage in Shall We Dance, the seventh musical Fred and Ginger made at RKO. The songs are by George and Ira Gershwin, including "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and "They All Laughed." Fred and Ginger even dance on roller skates to "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." It doesn't get better than that. "They Can't Take That Away from Me" was nominated as Oscar's Best Song in 1938.

If you prefer Fred with Rita Hayworth, you're in luck -- You Were Never Lovelier follows at 9:15 am. In that one, Fred is a hoofer who romances rich girl Rita in Argentina, with songs ranging from "Hungarian Rhapsody" to a series of tuneful Jerome Kern tunes with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. We've moved into the 1940s now, and you can see it in numbers like "The Shorty George." Rita truly is lovely throughout, making the title right on the money.

After that, TCM turns to On the Town, the 1949 movie version of a Broadway musical that happens to be playing right now in a well-regarded revival. On the Town won an Oscar in 1950 for its music. You know the drill -- three sailors on leave, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, Gene falls for Miss Turnstiles, lots of high-energy dancing and hijinks, "New, New York, what a wonderful town, the Bronx is up and the Battery's down... " Turner Classic Movies shows On the Town at 11:15 am.

The Music Man is up next at 1 pm, followed by Fiddler on the Roof at 3:45. Although both musicals take place around the turn of the 20th century, Meredith Wilson's score, all "Ya Got Trouble" and "76 Trombones," keeps us in small-town America, while Bock and Harnick's "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Tradition" move us across the ocean to the small village of Anatevka in Russia, where a Jewish milkman tries to figure out how to stick with what he knows in the face of change at every turn.  

Fiddler won three Oscars, while Music Man and On the Town each took home one, for Music Man's "Scoring of Music-adaptation or treatment" and On the Town's "Scoring of a Musical Picture." That's the same category where You Were Never Lovelier was nominated in 1942, although it didn't win.

In prime time, Life Is Beautiful, the Italian film that won three Oscars -- Best Actor for Roberto Benigni, Best Original Score and Best Foreign Language Film -- takes the 7 pm slot, with the murderous 1920s musical Chicago -- a big winner as Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta Jones), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Editing and Best Sound -- at 9:15.

But I'm all about Shakespeare in Love, the magical movie that imagines what Will Shakespeare was doing when he was young and impetuous and trying to write Romeo and Juliet. Or Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. For me, Shakespeare in Love is just about the perfect movie. It's smart and sweet, enchanting and effervescent. Joseph Fiennes is ever so attractive as Shakespeare, Gwyneth Paltrow is better than she's ever been as his love interest Viola, and the depth of the ensemble, which includes Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Antony Sher, Simon Callow, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter and Ben Affleck, is simply astounding. Yes, Shakespeare in Love is pretty much perfect.

The Academy agreed with me, handing over seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Paltrow), Best Supporting Actress (Dench), Best Screenplay (Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Score. TCM isn't broadcasting it till 11:30 pm, but it's worth staying up for.

All day and all night, TCM is showcasing movies that were nominated or won for their scores. But there's more than just music to recommend these movies. You gotta see these!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Want to Work on a Community Players Show Next Season? Still Time to Apply!

Last month, Community Players made the big announcement of what they'll be putting on stage for their 2015-16 season. Next month -- March 2, to be exact -- is the deadline to send in a staff application if you're interested in playing a part backstage for one (or more) of those shows.

First, let's take a look at what's up in 2015-26.

Players will start off their fall season with the backstage farce Noises Off, a 1982 play by Michael Frayn.  Noises Off involves a hapless troupe of terrible players whose show only gets worse -- on and off-stage -- when they take it on the road. Players'  production is scheduled for performances from September 3 to 13, 2015.

Next up is the musical Legally Blonde, based on the popular Reese Witherspoon movie about a seemingly ditsy California sorority girl whose boyfriend dumps her for a smarter woman when he takes off for Harvard Law School. So the blonde decides to follow him to law school to get him back. Legally Blonde will hit Players on November 5 and stick around until the 22nd.

Turning the corner on the new year, it's time for The Crucible, Arthur Miller's version of the Salem witch trials, often considered an allegory of the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, from January 14 to 24, 2016.

Little Shop of Horrors, the musical about a man-eating plant and a sweet flower store clerk named Seymour who tries to keep it supplied with people, is up in March, 2016. You may remember the original, non-musical Roger Corman movie from 1960, some of the more memorable songs from the stage musical, like the one about a sadistic dentist, the one where the plant demands "Feed Me, Seymour," or the pretty ballad another where Audrey, the girl Seymour wants, sings about finding "Somewhere That's Green." Look for Little Shop in performance from March 10 to 27, 2016.

Then there's the oldie but goodie thriller Dial M for Murder from May 5 to 15 and the musical about the wide-eyed comic strip orphan with the dog -- Annie -- July 8 to 24, 2016.

It's a pretty varied season, with a flat-out comedy, a flat-out drama, a scary mystery, and a trio of musicals that range from pink, pop and peppy (Legally Blonde) to a horror comedy with an ironic edge (Little Shop) and a show with a whole chorus of adorable orphans singing about their "Hard-knock Life" in Annie.

If one or more of those shows is just what you want to work on -- working on anything from costumes or props to lights, sound, set design or construction or run crew, or even directing or producing -- this is your chance to get your application in. You'll find the application here and more info about the process here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Will You Be Taken By HOSTAGE at New Route?

This week, New Route Theatre opens its 2015 season with the world premiere of Hostage, a play by Illinois State University professor Kim Pereira.

New Route describes the play as an "exciting and timely two-person play... as fresh and controversial as today's headlines." For this production, the two people in that tagline are played by Dan Irvin and Rhys Lovell, well-known local actors.

Hostage, a semi-finalist at the Eugene O'Neill Center National Playwrights Conference, is set in the complex, dangerous world of the Middle East, where ISIS, West Bank conflicts and Arab-American relations continue to stir up tension and instability. The central story of Hostage focuses on an American journalist named David, played by Lovell, and an Arab-American played by Irvin. Irvin's Karim was born in the United States but now lives the Middle East.

What happens next when they meet up?  "Unexpected turns force both men to confront difficult truths about themselves and the strange roles they will play in each other's lives."

Hostage is directed by Tom Palmer, a guest director who came from Atlanta, Georgia for the assignment. Performances begin on February 26 at 7:30 pm and continue on the 27th and 18th as well as March 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Sunday matinees start at 2:30 pm.

All performances will take place in New Route's new space at 814 Jersey Avenue in Normal. Tickets are priced at $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. For more information, you can visit the event's Facebook page. For reservations, call 309-827-7330 or e-mail You may also purchase tickets at the door.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ROMEO AND JULIET Bring Their Tale of Love and Woe to Eureka College

It's time for the world's most famous pair of teen lovers to take center stage at Eureka College. No, not the kids from Titanic. Instead, it's Romeo and Juliet, an early work by Shakespeare that invented the concept of star-crossed lovers.

In Shakespeare's tragedy, Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague come from families that don't get along. At all. In fact, it's unthinkable for a Capulet to think she belongs with a Montague in 16th century Verona. It's swelteringly hot in the streets of Verona, passions and anger are running high, and our teen lovers do not want to be thwarted by stuffy oldsters or feuding cousins who think they know what's best. And Shakespeare doesn't pack any punches -- he has his narrator tell us right from the get-go that this story will end in death. When we get to the end, we hear that there "never was a story of more woe....Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

Is it a tale of love that cannot be denied? Of how dangerous it is to ignore what your parents want for you? A cautionary tale about taking rash action or trying to defy fate or trying to keep love alive in a hostile world?

Whatever it is you think Shakespeare was trying to say with his Romeo and Juliet, it has proven to be one of his most popular plays. It's the one that the Victorians revived with a happy ending (as recreated in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby), the one that got a ballet from Prokofiev, the one that shows up in dozens of operas and pop songs, the one Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim turned into a modern musical gang war in West Side Story, the one Joe Calarco set in a boys' school in Shakespeare's R&J, the one Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann both put on film, and the one we see Will Shakespeare working on in Shakespeare in Love.

Professor Marty Lynch directs Romeo + Juliet (note the spelling reminiscent of Lurhmann's movie) for Eureka College with a production set in contemporary America. The rival Montague and Capulet families are now warring political factions. Lynch has indicated he hopes to emphasize the humor in the piece in the early going, with the intention of making the tragedy at the end stand out in sharp relief. Eureka College notes that the production will contain violence and some crude humor.

Lynch's cast includes Coleman Payne and Hattie Standridge as Romeo and Juliet, with Kristen Franz as Mercutio, Jake Geiger as Benvolio, Jason Punke and Veronica Kudulis as Romeo's dad and mom, Belle Grober as Tybalt, Anna Dabrowski as Juliet's nurse, Christopher Tam and Cathy Sutliff as Juliet's parents, Gretchen Schlossler as the friar, and Emmalie Dabrowski, Hannah Lane, Trevor McDaniel, Kirstin Meyers, Jessica Rogers, Ben Schultz and Emily Smith completing the ensemble.

Eureka's Romeo + Juliet begins at 7:30 pm on February 25, 26, 27 and 28 at Pritchard Theatre. Tickets are priced at $10 for general admission and $7 for students. For reservations, contact the box office at 309-467-6363, e-mail, or go to to pick a specific performance and purchase online. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Moliere's SCHOOL FOR WIVES Up Next at ISU

When looking for classics, college theatre programs often land on Moliere. Moliere (or Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, which is his real name) isn't as familiar as Shakespeare, as talky as Shaw or as sad as Chekhov, plus his critiques of privilege and pomposity are still funny and still as much on target as they were in the 17th century.

Next week, Illinois State University's Department of Theatre and Dance returns to Moliere for the first time since 2008, when Tartuffe was on the bill, bringing The School for Wives to Westhoff Theatre. School for Wives is a comedy, of course, with humor that punctures the arrogance of a man of position who is so afraid of being cheated on that he brings up his beautiful young ward in a nunnery with the idea of marrying her himself before she can meet any other men.

MFA directing candidate Jonathan Hunt Sell directs a cast that includes Dario Carrion as Arnolphe, the middle-aged man trying to maneuver an innocent young woman into marriage; Natalie Kozelka as Agnes, the woman in question; and Kaitlyn Wehr as Horace, the young man she meets and falls in love with when Arnolphe isn't looking.

You will notice that Sell has gender-bent Horace as a comment on the sexual politics at work in the play. The other roles are played straight, however, with Nicholas Spindler and Eliza Palumbo as Arnolphe's servants, Bryson Thomas as a friend who tries to steer his old pal Arnolphe away from the errors he's making, and Aaron Thomas and Sam Willis as a pair of deux ex machina fathers who arrive on the scene just in time.

The School for Wives opens February 26 at 7:30 pm in Westhoff Theatre, with additional evening performances on the 27th and 28th as well as March 3, 4, 5 and 6. There is one matinee scheduled for March 1 at 2 pm.

For more information on ISU's entire season, visit this page on their website. Click here for ticket information.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Digging Out FLOYD COLLINS at Urbana's Station Theatre

Floyd Collins was a real person. He was exploring a cave in Kentucky in 1925, a time when sensational accidents, lurid crimes and freak shows were huge national news, and he got stuck, his leg wedged under a rock he couldn't move. Although some of his would-be rescuers could initially get close enough to bring him a little food and light, conditions in the cave deteriorated and they couldn't free his leg or get him out. But they could ferry info back to the radio broadcasters at the scene who were sending out every detail to homes across the country. It was huge news, a jump forward for mass media, and in 1925, a dramatic tale of life and death that played to Joe and Sally Sixpack like nobody's business.

Composer Adam Guettel wrote music and lyrics to turn Collins' sad story into a stage musical, collaborating with book writer Tina Landau, who contributed additional lyrics. Guettel's score combined bluegrass and folk with classical influences to try to capture Kentucky in the 20s, and it certainly earned its share of fans over the years, with songs showing up in concerts and albums.

Floyd Collins premiered in Philadelphia in 1994, transferring to Playwrights Horizon off-Broadway in 1996, with a cast that included stars like Jason Danieley and Brian d'Arcy James. A 2012 Chicago production at BoHo Theatre was also well-regarded. The BoHo show was directed by Peter Marston Sullivan, who received his directing MFA at Illinois State University, with IWU grad Sarah Bockel as Floyd's sister Nellie.

Bringing Floyd Collins to central Illinois seems like a natural, especially at Urbana's intimate Station Theatre, where Collins' dilemma will be played up close and personal. Kyle A. Thomas directs the musical for Urbana's Station Theatre with a cast that includes Andy Hudson as the doomed spelunker and Celebration Company favorites David Barkley, Mikel L. Matthews Jr. and John Tilford also in the mix. Director Thomas will play Floyd's brother Homer, with Kyle Kinnamon, Grant Morenz, Mark H. Muller, Michael Murphy, Quinn Murphy, Jodi Prosser-Muller, Craig Smith and Marah Sotelo completing the ensemble cast.

The Station's Floyd Collins opens tomorrow, February 19, with performances running through March 7. Check out the Station Theatre website for all the details.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR Is Back, Gas Mask and All, at U of I Starting Tomorrow

Everything World War I is new again. In addition to recent screenings of Wings -- a 1927 movie starring Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen as WWI flying aces as well as the first film to win an Academy Award as Best Picture -- and the 1930 version of All Quiet on the Western Front, there is Heartland Theatre's current production of Heroes, a Tom Stoppard translation of a French play by Gerald Sibleyras about three veterans put out to pasture in the French countryside. And Oh What a Lovely War is back for a another round of performances in the Studio Theatre in University of Illinois's Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Last November, U of I staged a full array of concerts and other events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War last year. That array included a production of Oh What a Lovely War, a musical play created in 1963 by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop in London to explore the 50th anniversary of WWI.  The first Oh What a Lovely War combined popular songs from the period -- pieces like "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," "Belgium Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser" and "Roses of Picardy" -- against a backdrop of stark, devastating facts and figures about the ravages of a terrible war. When it was revived at Theatre Workshop last year, The Guardian's Michael Billington called it a restored "classic for a new generation," with its emotional toll intact.

Littlewood's original production eschewed military uniforms in favor of Pierrot costumes as a way to show the absurdity of war, but director Robert G. Anderson and his costume designer, Amy Chmielewski, pulled uniforms out of the closet for their Krannert Center production last year. Still, "Belguim Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser" and the iconic scene in which British and German soldiers exchange Christmas gifts were still there, still packing a punch.

Oh What a Lovely War starts its second run tomorrow, Wednesday, February 18, at 7:30 pm in Krannert Center's Studio Theatre. Evening performances continue on the 19th, 20th and 21st at 7:30 pm, followed by a 3 pm matinee on the 22nd. For ticket information, visit Krannert's website here. To see the show's program with complete cast and crew details, click here.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Let's get the title out of the way right off the top... Where in the World Is Frank Sparrow? is both a dramatic question and the title of a 2012 play by an Australian playwright named Angela Betzien. Frank Sparrow was commissioned for an Irish theater, the Graffiti Theatre Company in Cork, Ireland.

Betzien is frequently referred to as "Australia's foremost writer for teenage audiences" in press materials for Frank Sparrow. She is a founding member of an independent theater company called Real TV, and her plays have been performed at Belvoir Theatre in Sydney, the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Theater Company, Cortile Theater im Hof in Italy, Dschungel Wien Theaterhaus in Austria, and the ASSITEJ world congress for children’s theatre.

Director Thomas Quinn will bring Betzien's work to the Illinois Wesleyan School of Theatre Arts with Where in the World Is Frank Sparrow?, which sends a young hero on a journey through mean streets and a mythic underworld. So far, it sounds a bit like Naomi Iizuka's Anon(ymous) and Polaroid Stories put together, but IWU is adding puppetry to the mix to create a very different mood.

Milwaukee artist Brandon Kirkham has created the "elaborate" puppets for this event and he also conducted a puppetry workshop with the cast and crew. To give the puppets movement, IWU Associate Professor Jean MacFarland Kerr worked with the cast on choreography, with her colleague in costume design, Marcia McDonald, adding that visual element to the tableau.

Wesleyan's production will feature a cast of eighteen students led by sophomore Kenny Tran as Frank. Others in the cast include seniors Elizabeth Albers, Nick Castellanos, Casey Cudmore, Jenia Head and Debra Madans, juniors Julia Cicchino, Bucky Emmerling, Nick Giambrone, Chris Long, Carlos Medina Maldonado, Caitlin McManus and Alec Sutton, and sophomores Dean Carlson, Elizabeth Ferris, Trev Gabel, Yuka Sekine, and Kristin Solodar.

Where in the World Is Frank Sparrow? opens with an 8 o'clock performance on Tuesday, February 17, followed by evening shows at 8 pm on the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st, and a matinee at 2 pm on Sunday the 22nd.

For ticket information, visit IWU's season box office page or call 309-556-3232.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Opening This Week: HEROES at Heartland Theatre Company

The winter theatre season kicks into high gear this week with the opening of Heroes, a Tom Stoppard translation of a French play called Le Vent des Peupliers by Gérald Sibleyras.

Sibleyras wrote his Peupliers in 2002, and Stoppard did his version in 2005. The original British production, which starred Richard Griffiths, John Hurt and Ken Stott, picked up the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy for its successful run.

The French title means "the wind in the poplars," and that is important in the play, which involves three long-retired military men, all veterans of World War I, who wile away their time on the terrace of a home for old soldiers somewhere in the French countryside. From their terrace, they can just see -- sometimes -- a stand of poplars on a faraway hill, and they dream of escaping from their terrace and the insufferable life of controlling nuns and tepid soup. They all survived the horrors of a world war. But how will they get through yet another birthday party?

Stoppard has said that he changed the title because British producers were worried that The Wind in the Poplars sounded too much like The Wind in the Willows. He's also said he would've gone with Veterans if that hadn't been already taken. But if you've seen the play... Well, Heroes is just exactly right. The three gentlemen at the center of the play are heroes, just for finding a way to use lively humor and a gentle imagination to get them from August to September.

Photo by Jesse Folks
Taken at Ewing Manor
For Heartland Theatre, Illinois Wesleyan Professor Emeritus John Ficca directs Joe Penrod, George Peterson-Karlan and Todd Wineburner in the roles played by Hurt, Stott and Griffiths, respectively. Left to right in the promotional shot at right are Penrod, Wineburner and Peterson-Karlan, posing at Ewing Manor in Bloomington, a wonderful local example of French chateau style.

Performances of Heroes begin on Thursday, February 12, with a special Pay What You Can preview at 7:30 pm. The regular run begins on Friday, with performances on the 13th and 14th, the 19th through the 22nd and February 26th through March 1.

A panel discussion is scheduled after the matinee on the 22nd, with Illinois State University theatre professors Will Daddario and Joanne Zerdy on hand to talk about the connection between theatre and war. The after-show discussion is open to the public and free of charge.

For showtimes and reservation information, visit the Heartland Theatre website.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Susan Smith Blackburn Nominees Announced

The directors of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, awarded annually to outstanding plays written by woman, have announced the finalists for this year's prize. The award comes with a $25,000 cash prize and an signed print (seen at right) by artist Willem de Koonig.

So who's up for the big prize this year?

Alice Birch for Revolt. She said. Revolt again.
Alecky Blythe for Little Revolution
Clare Barron for You Got Older
Clara Brennan for Spine
Katherine Chandler for Parallel Lines
Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig for The World of Extreme Happiness
Lisa d'Amour for Airline Highway
Lindsey Ferrentino for Ugly Lies the Bone
Zodwa Nyoni for Boi Boi Is Dead
Heidi Schreck for Grand Concourse
Ruby Rae Spiegel for Dry Land
Tena Štivičić for 3 Winters

Birch was nominated in 2012 for Many Moons, while Chandler was up in 2013 for Before It Rains, and Cowhig and d'Amour were both finalists in 2011, for Lidless and Detroit respectively.

Blythe, Barron, Brennan, Ferrentino, Nyoni, Schreck, Spiegel and Štivičić are all first-time nominees, but whoever wins will be a first-time winner.

For more information about the playwrights or their nominated plays, click under the links above.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Catching February Theatre Fever

Time to get your February calendar ready!

Along with Oscar-nominated short films, the Art Theater Co-op in Champaign is currently showing M, Fritz Lang's masterpiece of German expressionism. It's a creepy film about a child murderer (played by young Peter Lorre in his third film) on the loose in pre-World War II Berlin, a city of deep shadows and lurking evil. You can read Roger Ebert's take on M here.

Back on the Oscar theme, upcoming at The Art will be Selma, Foxcatcher and Still Alice, all nominated in various categories.

Foxcatcher is also on the bill at the Normal Theater, with this story about multimillionaire John du Pont (played by Steve Carrell), a man obsessed with Olympic wrestling and brothers Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), on screen on February 7 and 8.

Illinois State University Theatre's year begins with Cabaret, opening February 12 in ISU's Center for the Performing Arts. Duane Boutte directs a cast that includes Paige Brantley as Sally Bowles, the American girl who sings at the seedy Kit Kat Club in Berlin. In fact, the low-rent Kit Kat Club could've been right down the street from the goings-on in M, above. Jimmy Keating will play Cliff, the Englishman who enters Sally's life as the Nazis rise to power around them, and Alex Levy will portray the Emcee, the sardonic, decadent ringmaster at this shady place. Check out the show's Facebook page for more information.

Heroes, based on a French play by Gerald Sibleyras that was translated and adapted by award-winning playwright Tom Stoppard, opens February 12 at Heartland Theatre. A lighter, sweeter piece with nary a trace of physics or politics, Heroes is a bit of a departure for Stoppard. It focuses on three men, all veterans of World War I, who are stuck in a retirement home for old soldiers. Each has his own mental or physical problem, but together, they plot a way out of their confinement. Will they make it off their terrace? Over the wall? To the poplars in the distance? Come out to Heartland to see Joe Penrod, George Peterson-Karlan and Todd Wineburner bring Heroes to life from February 12 to 28, with a panel discussion scheduled after the February 22 performance. The discussion topic is Theatre and War, with historiography scholars Dr. Will Daddario and Dr. Joanne Zerdy offering their take on why theatre artists come back to war as a topic again and again. Check out Heroes showtimes here to make your choice.

Over at Illinois Wesleyan, February kicks off with Where in the World Is Frank Sparrow? by Angela Betzien. Frank Sparrow is described as "a stark urban reality" combined with "a mythic underworld." IWU offers six performances in McPherson Theatre between February 17 and 22. For more information, click here.

ISU is also offering Moliere's classic School for Wives this month. Natalie Kozelka and Kaitlyn Wehr star as thwarted young lovers Agnes and Horace, with Dario Carrion as Arnolphe, the middle-aged man keeping them apart. Agnes is his ward, and Arnolphe wants her for himself. Given that it's Moliere, have no fear -- Arnolphe's plans will come to naught. But it's going to take a lot of plots and counterplots to make that happen. MFA director Jonathan Hunt Sell takes the reins on this gender-bent version of The School for Wives, scheduled for performances in Westhoff Theatre from February 19 to March 6.

February 22 is Oscar night, where Hollywood luminaries gather to celebrate their favorite directors, performers and films from 2014. Will Birdman stave off Boyhood for Best Picture? Can Eddie Redmayne take Best Actor from Michael Keaton? Can anybody stop Julianne Moore? (No, no one can stop Julianne Moore.) See all the gowns, the glamor and the heartbreak starting at 6 Central time on ABC on the 22nd.

Romeo and Juliet is Eureka College's February choice, bringing the Montagues and Capulets into the 21st century as rival political factions instead of warring families. Eureka's R and J begins February 25 in Pritchard Theatre.

The world premiere of Hostage by Kim Pereira opens New Route Theatre's 2015 season. New Route tells us that "[t]his powerful play, a semi-finalist at the Eugene O'Neill Center National Playwrights Conference, is set somewhere in the Middle East against the complicated backdrop of ISIS, the West Bank, and Arab-American relations." Directed by guest director Tom Palmer from Atlanta, Georgia, Hostage features Dan Irvin and Rhys Lovell, two of the best actors you'll find in these parts. Performances are scheduled for February 26 to 28, March 1 and March 5 to 8. New Route's new space is at 814 Jersey Avenue in Normal, and tickets will be available at the door. You can reserve a spot by calling 309-827-7330 or e-mailing

And that should take you from one end of February to the other with plenty of entertainment...