NU Theatre Announces Exciting 50th Anniversary Season

August 13, 2013  |  by Michael Freedman

Fifty and fabulous? No doubt about it! Niagara University Theatre is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary season with an exciting array of entertainment options to suit a variety of tastes.

Steven Braddock, director of Niagara University Theatre said, “We are extremely honored to dedicate the upcoming 2013-2014 season to our late director emeritus, Brother Augustine Towey, C.M., Ph.D, who passed away in November of 2012. In honor of Brother Augustine, one of Niagara University Theatre’s founders and the creative force behind NU’s theatre program for more than 45 years, we will be pulling out all the stops to offer two hit musicals (Off-Broadway’s Bat Boy: The Musical and the award-winning Broadway production, Curtains); one romantic and one slapstick comedy (The Philadelphia Story and The Comedy of Errors); two thought-provoking dramas (The Secret Life of Girls and A Piece of My Heart); our annual student-directed Short Play Festival; and the NU Players’ production of The Shape of Things.

“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 three years behind us, our first-class facility can offer audience amenities that 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 50th year, 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.”

From Oct. 3 through Oct. 7, NU Theatre will present The Secret Life of Girls by Linda Daugherty and directed by adjunct professor Amanda Lytle Sharpe. This  frank, unflinching, timely play spotlights the devastation caused by bullying in the form of gossiping, using friendship as a weapon, name-calling, exclusion, spreading rumors, forming cliques and manipulation. Based upon interviews with girls on the giving and receiving end, the play highlights the impact of “cyberbullying,” and is by turns both humorous and heartbreaking. A penetrating look into teenage angst, this exceptional family event offers the opportunity for insightful dialogue following each and every performance.

The Secret Life of Girls 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. 3, and Monday, Oct. 7, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 5, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, Oct. 5, and Sunday, Oct. 6.

Just in time for Halloween, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 10, NU Theatre will present Bat Boy: The Musical by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O’Keefe. The production will be directed by associate professor/associate director of NU Theatre Doug Zschiegner, with music direction by music adjunct Jason Bravo and choreography by associate professor/choreographer Terri Filips Vaughan. Ripped straight from tabloid headlines, Bat Boy: The Musical is a love story with a wicked bite, set to an outstanding pop-rock score. The production won the awards for best Off-Broadway musical including the Lucille Lortel Award, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Outer Critics Circle Award in 2001.

Rescued from a West Virginia cave and taken in by the compassionate wife of the local veterinarian, our pointy-eared hero quickly learns to speak and act in civilized ways – even falling in love with his mentor’s daughter. But would you let your child go out with him? Fast-paced and hilarious, this quirky cult satire offers clever musical numbers, a hilarious plot, surprising twists and a lesson in the agony of being different. Bat Boy: The Musical 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. 31, and Thursday, Nov. 7, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, Saturday, Nov. 2, Friday, Nov. 8, and Saturday, Nov. 9. Also, 2 p.m. matinees will be presented on Saturday, Nov. 2, Sunday, Nov. 3 (with post-show discussion), Saturday, Nov. 9, and Sunday, Nov. 10. The play contains adult subject matter and language.

From Dec. 5 through Dec. 15, NU Theatre will present Philip Barry’s sparkling romantic comedy, The Philadelphia Story, which inspired the 1940 film of the same name starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. This charming production will be directed by Steve Braddock, director of Niagara University Theatre. Set in 1939, the story opens on an opulent estate where a wedding is to take place.  Barry’s comedy centers on a beautiful, sophisticated, wealthy socialite whose wedding is complicated by the simultaneous arrival of her dashing ex-husband and an attractive journalist. Goodness! What’s a girl to do? The production is on stage in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, and Thursday, Dec. 12, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, Saturday, Dec. 7, Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14.  Matinees will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, Sunday, Dec. 8 (with post-show discussion), Saturday, Dec. 14, and Sunday, Dec. 15.

What’s there to do after the holiday season ends? From Jan. 17 through Jan. 25, NU Theatre’s annual Short Play Festival makes for a fascinating dose of theatre – and a great entertainment bargain. Three cycles of 10-minute plays written by various playwrights will be presented over two consecutive weekends. Comedies, dramas and everything in between – our debut of nearly two dozen student directors produces a smorgasbord of professionally published 10-minute plays. If one production is not to your taste, you only have to wait 10 minutes before the next one.  (With some plays, adult situations and language may be an appropriate warning to anticipate.)

The Short Play Festival will be on stage in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan.  17 (Cycle A), and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18 (Cycle A); on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m. (Cycle B) and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19 (Cycle B); and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24 (Cycle C), and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25 (Cycle C).

From Feb. 13 to Feb. 16, NU Theatre,in collaboration with the Castellani Art Museum, will present A Piece of My Heart by Shirley Lauro, directed by adjunct professor Amanda Lytle Sharpe. This readers’ theatre production will be performed at the Castellani Art Museum amidst a specially curated art exhibit.

Inspired by Keith Walker’s heart-wrenching oral history of the same title, this is a powerful, gritty, true drama of women who were courageous enough to walk into hell. A Piece of My Heart is a compelling piece about making the choice to serve in the Vietnam War and the lifelong consequences of that decision. The play contains adult subject matter and language.

A Piece of My Heart will be staged at the Castellani Art Museum on the NU campus at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, and Saturday, Feb. 15. A 2 p.m. matinee will be held at the museum on Sunday, Feb. 16.

From Feb. 21 through Feb. 23, the NU Players will present an all student-designed and directed production of The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute. How far would one go for one’s art? What would one sacrifice for love? This is a thought-provoking piece that challenges our most deeply entrenched ideas about the two.

A modern version of Adam’s seduction by Eve, LaBute’s play is an intense and often unsettling study of the uses of power and the stretching of ethical boundaries within human relationships. The play contains adult subject matter and language.

The Shape of Things will be on stage in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22. In addition, a 2 p.m. matinee will be presented on Saturday, Feb. 22 (with post-show discussion) and on Sunday, Feb. 23.

From March 20 to March 30, Niagara University Theatre will present William Shakespeare’s rollicking classic, The Comedy of Errors, directed by artist-in-residence (stage combat)/recruiter Adriano Gatto. This timeless masterpiece features a time-honored recipe for hilarity: mistaken identity, wild mishaps and slapstick humor. Take two sets of identical twins (separated as children). Fold in a jealous wife, her charming sister and an amorous kitchen wench. Mix with a generous variety of eccentric characters. Let simmer for two hours, stirring constantly. Serve to those with an appetite for giggles, guffaws and belly laughs.

The Comedy of Errors will be on stage in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, and Thursday, March 27. The production will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 21, Saturday, March 22, Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29. In addition, 2 p.m. matinees are on stage Saturday, March 22, Sunday, March 23 (with post-show discussion) and Saturday, March 29, and Sunday, March 30.

And talk about ending the 50th anniversary season with a bang! From April 24 through May 4, Niagara University Theatre will present the award winning John Kander, Fred Ebb and Rupert Holmes murder mystery musical, Curtains. NU Theatre director Steve Braddock will direct the production, while associate professor Terri Filips Vaughan is choreographer. NU proudly rekindles its longtime relationship with the works of John Kander and Fred Ebb with this romantic 1959 era spectacle – a bright, brassy homage to musical theatre, with a twist! At the Boston opening of a new Broadway-bound musical, the leading lady mysteriously dies on stage. A local detective, a musical theatre fan, endeavors to solve both the mystery and the show’s problems, while simultaneously courting the ingénue. Talk about multitasking!

Curtains was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2007 and it won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical the same year. The production will be on stage in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, and Thursday, May 1. The musical will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25, Saturday, April 26, and Friday, May 2. In addition, 2 p.m. matinees will be held on Saturday, April 26, Sunday, April 27 (with post-show discussion) and Sunday, May 4.

On Saturday, May 3, the Friends of Niagara University Theatre will host the 29th Annual Friends of Niagara University Theatre Gala, including a 4 p.m. production of Curtains 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. For more information about the gala, please contact Niagara University Theatre at 716.286.8483 or 716.286.8480.

During the summer of 2014, NU Theatre will once again present free children’s theatre for the community. Our 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. Locations, dates and times for performances will be announced in the spring.

For additional information and tickets, please visit the Niagara University Theatre Box Office at http://theatre.niagara.edu.