Niagara University Theatre Announces Schedule for 53rd Season

September 20, 2016  |  by Michael Freedman

Niagara University Theatre’s 53rd season of theatre productions promises a diverse collection of entertainment options to suit a variety of tastes.

Steve Braddock, director of Niagara University Theatre, said, “We are excited to begin the season with The Macbeth Insurgency, adapted and directed by Doug Zschiegner. This contemporary take on Macbeth, a 21st century, multimedia approach to Shakespeare’s themes, will make Macbeth resonate in a very real way for a modern audience. An evening of vibrant theatre, brimming with connections to global events that are vivid and palpable, will provide our patrons with the opportunity for lively, insightful conversation.”

The season continues with Stage Door by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin and Rebecca Feldman; the annual Short Play Festival; Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone;  the NU Players’ production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel; Suzan Zeder’s Mother Hicks; and, finally, the multiple Tony Award-winning musical, The Pajama Game by George Abbott, Richard Bissell, Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.

The entire season will be produced in the renovated William P. and Marie Leary Theatre in the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, except for the annual collaboration with the Castellani Art Museum.

From Oct. 13-17, The Macbeth Insurgency, adapted and directed by Zschiegner, associate professor and associate director of NU Theatre, takes center stage at NU’s Leary Theatre. Shakespeare wrote the murderous Macbeths to ask the same questions about the terrorist plots and religious divisions of his day. And he put history’s most famous upwardly mobile couple into a world of suspicion, secret attacks and double-talk that looks a lot like ours.

In the 400th year since his death, this adaptation takes apart Shakespeare and adds contemporary staging, video and movement for a fast-paced thriller that asks old questions in a new way.

The Macbeth Insurgency will be on stage in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, and Monday, Oct. 17, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, and Saturday, Oct. 15, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, Oct.15, and Sunday, Oct. 16.

From Nov. 3-13, the stage will be set for possibilities and promises as NU presents Stage Door by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferer. Directed by Amanda Lytle Sharpe, adjunct professor of theatre, Stage Door is a legitimate valentine to the theatre, paying tribute to those who experience the glories and heartbreaks of the profession. Illuminating the ever-present tension between theatre and film, as well as the show business power structures built on sex and gender roles, Stage Door offers a fresh perspective on the future by showing us our past.

Stage Door will be staged at the Leary Theatre at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3 and 10, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4 and 11, and Saturday, Nov. 5 and 12, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, Nov. 5 and 12, and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 13.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin and Rebecca Feldman will be on stage Dec. 1-11. Winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk awards for Best Book, it is the hilarious tale of six prepubescent, misfit contestants, vying for the championship of a lifetime, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves. Featuring an appealing cast of lovable characters, a comic yet touching book and a truly bright and lively score, the play captures the anguish, elation and heartache that make growing up so excruciatingly wonderful.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be on stage at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, and Thursday, Dec 8. The musical will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec 2, Saturday, Dec. 3, and Friday, Dec. 9. In addition, 2 p.m. matinees will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, Sunday, Dec. 4 (with post-show discussion), and Sunday, Dec. 11.

There will be comedies, dramas and everything in between when NU Theatre presents its annual Short Play Festival Jan. 20-28. If one of the student-directed plays is not to your taste, you only have to wait 10 minutes until the next one. Some of the plays contain adult situations and language.

The Short Play Festival will be on stage at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan.  20 (Cycle A), 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21 (Cycle A), Saturday, Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. (Cycle B) and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22 (Cycle B), and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27 (Cycle C), and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28 (Cycle C).

The wildly imaginative comedy Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl demonstrates the ways in which we commemorate the dead and how the memories change us. Directed by Trevor Copp, adjunct professor of physical theatre, and in collaboration with the Castellani Art Museum, Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Feb. 16-19) is the journey of a woman forced to challenge her own assumptions about integrity, redemption, and the need to connect in a world fanatically preoccupied with technology.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone will be on stage at the Castellani Art Museum on the NU campus at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, Feb 18. A 2 p.m. matinee will be held Sunday, Feb. 19 (with post-show discussion).

From February 24-26 NU Players present an all student-produced production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel. This poignant study of a bitter, spiteful widow and her two young daughters has been hailed as one of the most significant and touching plays of our time.

Young Tillie’s understanding of the fundamental scientific structure of the world keeps her sane. Free from her turbulent home life. Free from her mother’s endless need for attention. Could knowledge be a way of gaining her mother’s love? Can a science fair project show her mother that Tillie is more than just half a test-tube?

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds will be on stage at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb 24, and Saturday, Feb 25. Matinees will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 (with post-show discussion) and Sunday, Feb. 26.

Mother Hicks (March 23-27), directed by Braddock, is the inspiring folkloric story of three Depression-era outsiders: Girl, an orphan who is passed from home to home; Tuc, a young deaf man whose perceived weakness is really one of his great strengths; and Mother Hicks, a midwife whose unconventional methods have fearful townspeople believing her to be a witch. An evocative tale told through poetry and sign language, Mother Hicks illustrates our collective journey through life in search of belonging.

Mother Hicks will be on stage at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, and Monday, March 27, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25. A 2 p.m. matinee will be held Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26.

Exploding with fun and nostalgic theatricality, NU Theatre tops off its 53rd season with an energetic production of The Pajama Game from April 20-30. The show will be directed by Terri Filips Vaughan, associate professor/choreographer.

A golden age classic, The Pajama Game tells the story of Babe, a feisty pajama factory employee representative who meets her match in Sid, the shop superintendent. Overflowing with song, dance and pajamas, the conflicts between labor union and management provide a sparkling backdrop for the blossoming romance between the two employees.

Winner of multiple Tony Awards (including Best Musical), The Pajama Game is brimming with songs and dances that have become beloved musical theatre standards, including “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.”

The Pajama Game will be on stage at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 20, and Thursday, April 27. The musical will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 21, Saturday, April 22, and Friday, April 28.  In addition, 2 p.m. matinees will be held Saturday, April 22, Sunday, April 23 (with post-show discussion), and Sunday, April 30.

On Saturday, April 29, the Friends of Niagara University Theatre will host the 32nd Annual Friends of Niagara University Theatre Gala, including a 4 p.m. production of The Pajama Game 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 2017, 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 3-10, 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 tickets and information, please call 716.286.8685 or visit theatre.niagara.edu.