Niagara University Theatre Announces 51st Season

August 18, 2014

From October through May, Niagara University Theatre’s 51st season of theatre productions promises an exciting array of entertainment options to suit a variety of tastes.

Steve Braddock, director of Niagara University Theatre said, “We’ve chosen an eclectic and engaging array of productions and are delighted to start the season off with The Wrestling Season by Laurie Brooks, a timely drama that reveals devastating issues many young people confront at school and in the community. NU Theatre is proud to continue to provide such ‘outreach’ dramas to spotlight critical topics affecting the lives of students of all ages.

“The season continues with the multiple Tony-Award winning musical thriller, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler; A Commedia Christmas Carol by Matthew R. Wilson; the annual Short Play Festival; Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice; the NU Players’ production of John Kolvenbach’s Love Song; Cyrana, a new adaptation of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, penned by Doug Zschiegner, associate professor/associate director of NU Theatre; and finally, the Tony-Award winning Broadway classic, Guys & Dolls by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

“The entire season will be produced in the renovated William P. and Marie Leary Theatre in the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre—with the one exception of our annual collaboration with the Castellani Art Museum where an art exhibit is especially curated for a readers’ theater production.

“While many area theaters focus on producing one type of theater – here at NU, our season of theater is about variety and tremendous value.  With our $3.1 million renovation several years behind us, our first-class facility can offer audience amenities which add to the entertainment experience:  a circular driveway drop off, a computerized box-office, an elevator, air-conditioning, listening devices, comfortable seats with arm and leg room, and an audience lounge for pre-show and intermission – complete with a photographic mural spotlighting NU Theatre productions from the 1960s through 2010. We invite theatregoers from across Western New York and Southern Ontario to join us for our 51st year of theatre performances, featuring theatre majors from across the country. These students work under the direction of our award-winning faculty, comprised of a professional team of directors/actors, a choreographer, a stage combat expert, vocal instructors/musicians, a costume/make-up designer, a costume technologist and scenic and lighting designers.”

The Wrestling Season (Oct. 16-20) by Laurie Brooks takes center stage at NU’s Leary Theatre. Directed by adjunct professor Amanda Lytle Sharpe, this powerful, perceptive and poignant play tackles subject matter seldom addressed but vital to youth and their families: the search for identity and the peer pressure that accompanies it. Using only the setting of a wrestling mat as a metaphor for the conflicts, betrayal, and complicated camaraderie experienced by most teens, eight young people struggle with the devastating power of rumors and how others see them.

An insightful glimpse into the destructive influence of gossip and clique behavior among young people, this exceptional family/school event offers insightful dialogue following each performance.

Just perfect for the dark nights of autumn, NU Theatre presents Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Nov. 6-16) by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Sweeney Todd, a barber unjustly exiled from his home and family, returns to London seeking retribution against the unscrupulous judge who framed him. The road to vengeance leads Todd to Mrs. Lovett, the ingeniously enterprising proprietress of a failing pie shop, above which he opens a new practice and proceeds to slice his way through London’s upper crust. The production features what is generally regarded as Stephen Sondheim’s most beautiful and ingeniously crafted score.

Directed by Steve Braddock, director of NU Theatre, this multiple Tony-Award winning musical thriller explores love, loss and revenge with brilliant wit, diabolical humor and astonishing music. Music direction will be provided by adjunct professor Cristen Gregory, and Terri Filips Vaughan, associate professor/choreographer will provide the choreography.Costumes will be by associate professor/costume and make-up designer Maureen T. Stevens and scenic design will be by associate professor/scenic designer/production manager David Dwyer.

God bless us everyone! NU Theatre offers a new twist on a beloved holiday classic with A Commedia Christmas Carol (Dec. 4-14), directed by adjunct professors Robin Patterson and Terry Judd, founding members of Canada’s Theatre Beyond Words, an international touring theater ensemble specializing in mask, clown, modern commedia dell’arte and visual theater. This retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will feature fantastically imagined masks, clowning, and acrobatics. When Scrooge is visited by his old business partner Marley, an unforgettable journey, filled with ghosts, yuletides, and premonitions, sets the covetous old man on a path to salvation.  One of the most lasting and best-loved stories of hope, A Commedia Christmas Carolis a treat for the whole family and a hilarious, heart-felt celebration of the holiday season.

What’s there to do after the holiday season ends? NU Theatre’s annual Short Play Festival (Jan. 23-31) makes for a fascinating dose of theater – and a great entertainment bargain. Doug Zschiegner, associate professor/associate director of NU Theatre, will produce three cycles of ten-minute plays written by various playwrights which will be presented over two consecutive weekends. Comedies, dramas, and everything in between—our debut of nearly two dozen studentdirectors produces a smorgasbord of professionally published ten-minute plays.  If one production is not to your taste, you only have to wait ten minutes before the next one.  (With some plays, adult situations and language may be an appropriate warning to anticipate.)

In collaboration with the Castellani Art Museum, NU Theatre will present, Eurydice (Feb. 19-22) by Sarah Ruhl, directed by artist-in-residence (stage combat)/recruiter Adriano Gatto. This readers’ theater production will be performed amidst an insightful, specially curated art exhibit. A modern reimagining of the classic Orpheus myth, Eurydice’scontemporary characters and ingenious plot twists fashion a fresh look at a timeless love story. Dying too young on her wedding day, Eurydice must journey to the underworld, where she reunites with her father and struggles to remember her lost love. Eurydice’s themes embrace not just romantic love, but also the bond between a father and a daughter, represented as a power as essential and compassionate as the other type.

The NU Players will present an all student-designed and directed production of Love Song (Feb. 27-March 1) by John Kolvenbach. Does love make us crazy? Or are we crazy to fall in love? Beane is a loner, a misfit. He feels the walls closing in and the light starting to dim. His sister and her husband are at a loss as to how to help him. In fact, they could do with a little help themselves.  Then Beane meets Molly. This richly comic, deeply moving piece looks at the chaos of being human and the longing for, well, everything.

Niagara University Theatre will present Cyrana (March 26-31), a delightful adaptation of the classic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac, written anddirected by associate professor/associate director of NU Theatre Doug Zschiegner.  Cyrana — poet, soldier, and hopeful romantic– is a mistress of all trades, exasperatingly stubborn and exceptionally skilled. And yet, she encounters a tangle of triangular trouble as she vies for her own true love against both her adversary and her close friend.  When you’ve discovered the courageous heart behind the spectacular nose, you may find yourself falling in love as well. This gender-bending twist on the celebration of poetry, love and panache reminds us that often what you yearn for is right under your nose.

NU Theatre tops off its 51st season with a rollicking production of Guys and Dolls (April 23-May 3), considered the perfect American musical. Steve Braddock, director of NU Theatre, will direct this Tony-Award winning production filled with unforgettable songs, a quirky cast of gamblers, gangsters, gals and good neighbors, an evening of entertainment you can bet on!

Set in Damon Runyon’s fictitious New York City, inveterate gambler Nathan Detroit is strapped for cash to set up the biggest craps game in town.  A scheme involving fellow gambler Sky Masterson, wagering for the heart of a straight-laced missionary, threatens to undermine his credibility with fellow gamblers… and his fiancé of 14 years!

Choreography will be provided by Terri Filips Vaughan, associate professor/choreographer. Costumes will be by associate professor/costume and make-up designer Maureen T. Stevens and scenic design will be by associate professor/scenic designer/production manager David Dwyer.

On Saturday, May 2, the Friends of Niagara University Theatre will host the 30th Annual Friends of Niagara University Theatre Gala including a 4 p.m. production of Guys and Dolls at the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, and a cocktail reception, dinner and silent and live auction at the Niagara Falls Country Club. Tickets for the gala are $150 per person or $175 per person (gala patrons). For more information about the gala, please contact Niagara University Theatre at 716.286.8483.

During the summer of 2015, NU Theatre will once again present free children’s theatre for the community. The N.U.R.T. (Niagara University Repertory Theatre) troupe will present a rotating repertoire of children’s stories during July and August. Suitable for children ages three through 10, the N.U.R.T. troupe will perform in the air-conditioned Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, and in the Western New York community. In addition, NU Theatre will continue its tradition of presenting a free theatre-for-youth production. Locations, dates and times for performances will be announced in the spring.

For dates, times and tickets, please call 716.286.8685 or visit http://theatre.niagara.edu.