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Thursday, January 05, 2012 - The Show is Going On!

by Gillian Ellis

The day after final exams are completed the atmosphere of the university changes completely. The hallways are quiet and the phone rings far less frequently. Faculty and staff take the opportunity to catch up, and they rejoice that they are able to find a parking space really close to their building!

But there are always some students who continue to come to campus. Presumably OU athletes were hard at work over at the O’rena, and here in Varner some of our arts professionals in training were also still working, despite the break in the academic calendar. The demands of the performance calendar must also be met, and with an opera scheduled in January and a Shakespearian comedy planned for early February, of necessity, some students are in rehearsal throughout the Holiday recess.

Cosi fan tutte
will open on Thursday, January 12 with a 6 pm performance, as part of the department’s Arts-After Work season. The parts are double cast and so twelve students who began to learn their music in September and have been in rehearsal ever since, took a break immediately after the semester ended and resumed work on December 27. Rachel Lamphere, who will sing the role of Dorabella says, "I am so glad that the entire Cosi cast could get together to rehearse over our time off. I know our work will pay off in terms of our final production. We are all getting very excited about our upcoming shows, and the additional rehearsal time over break has definitely contributed to this feeling." Mozart’s opera will be sung in English and fully staged and costumed. Assistant Professor and Opera Program Coordinator Drake Dantzler says that Cosi offers, “Really beautiful music and very funny theatre."

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing began rehearsals immediately after the fall semester officially closed. With some of the cast committed to a previous production and the ever-constant shortage of space in Varner, an earlier start was impossible. So on Monday, December 12, when most other OU students either indulged in an unaccustomed late morning in bed, or got up early to go to a paid holiday job, the cast of Much Ado About Nothing began blocking. With a February 2 opening and many of the performers involved in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) trip to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in early January, the cast also had to show up to the very first rehearsal with their lines learned. The schedule had rehearsals throughout the first week of the recess, although not all cast members were called every day. “It’s part of theatre,” said musical theatre and music education double major Ryan Dawsley, who has the role of Don John. “We know we have to be available in order to be cast.” Assistant director and acting major Anna Wyatt says the cast is, “Glad to have the extra time. It’s very comforting to know when we come back in January the blocking is done.”

Assistant Professor of Theatre Lynnae Lehfeldt is directing the production. It is the first MTD Shakespearean production since 2006, when a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in nineteenth century Hawaii was produced. Lynnae is ready for the challenge posed by the language. “First the student actors need to fully understand what they are saying,” she says. “It is easy to fall into the trap of playing a general feeling without understanding the specifics of what a character is saying. Secondly, the actors need to realize that they can't bring Shakespeare's language down to them; they need to rise to his language. The language is not delivered the same as it is in sitcoms. There is no mumbling or dropping the end of sentences.” Once the hurdle of language is overcome the true character of the play will be revealed. “Our Much Ado About Nothing is going to be a fast-paced romp,” says Lynnae. “It is full of romance, comedy and drama. There will be singing and dancing and it will be truly beautiful in every way. And, the running time will be under two hours, I promise!”

The student performers were not the only ones working through the recess. A trip to the costume shop during the week before the Holidays found three students hard at work. Design major Gina Smothers and Musical Theatre major Susanna Allen were sewing costumes for Much Ado About Nothing, while Megan (Willow) Lupa was cutting patterns. As the costumer for the Much Ado, Willow has cut most of the patterns. A senior and a design and tech major, she is working towards a professional career in performance costuming. “It’s relatively unusual for an undergraduate to be given the responsibility of costumer,” says Leslie Littell, special instructor in Theatre, but Willow has a proven track record. She has already served as costumer for Little Mary Sunshine this season. With two major productions so close together, the costume shop has no shortage of work. “If they weren’t closing the building we would be here that [holiday] week too,” says Leslie.
Also working during the Holiday recess was the tech crew who loaded in for the production of Cosi fan tutte. Design and tech major Jeff Block designed both the scenery and the lighting for Cosi, and he and staff members Brent Wrobel, Kathy Boersma, and Eric Brumm worked for two days, along with a crew of eight student volunteers, to have the Recital Hall ready for the final couple of weeks of rehearsal.

The final element missing from these productions is you, the audience. We invite you to join us for both of these adventurous productions. They are both comic and romantic and offer the perfect antidote to the winter blahs! Thank you in advance for your support of the performing arts and of our students. For detailed information about these and other winter performances please see our season brochure online.  You can find complete ticket information at oakland.edu/tickets.

Photos: Top: Left to right: Ryan Dawley, Michael Perillo, Nathan Larkins, and Anna Wyatt take a break from running lines for Much Ado About Nothing.

Middle: Megan (Willow) Lupa cuts a pattern for a
Much Ado About Nothing costume.

Bottom: Ashley Byszkowski (left) and Amy Brooks work on set construction for
Cosi fan tutte.

Photos by Gillian Ellis.
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