The stories behind the stories

The Lycoming College theater department’s 2013-2014 season is like anything else in art: greatly enriched by the stories behind the stories. A good high school teacher will wait to tell you that Homer’s “Odyssey” is a nearly 3000-year-old epic poem until piquing your interest with the violence and sex and dragons therein.

Department chairwoman N. J. Stanley has stories for every one of the season’s productions – a season filled with romance, a bit of cannibalism and yes: even a dragon’s lair.

“When we as a faculty begin the process of determining the season’s lineup every year, there are some basic principles to which we always return,” explained Stanley. “As an educational institution we are interested in presenting a variety of types and styles of plays, as well as the period of time in which they were written and/or represent,” she added. The faculty is interested not only in presenting them to the students, she said, but to the audience as a whole as well.

The season will begin with “An Absurd Pair;” two absurdist comedies from Eastern Europe that celebrate the ridiculous while scrutinizing the art of manipulation. According to the theater department’s website, “‘Fire in the Basement’ is set in the modest apartment of a newlywed couple that find themselves invaded by four firefighters who quickly monopolize their lives, [and] in ‘Out at Sea,’ three people stranded on a raft confront the ultimate dilemma as their supplies dwindle: whom to eat first?”

The two one-act plays will be the season’s contemporary offering, although they were written in the 1980s. The date, Stanley argued, is almost irrelevant: “In tone, in meaning, in how they reflect the world in which we live, they feel like they could have been written a minute ago.”

“An Absurd Pair” will run from Oct. 2 through 5 in the Mary L. Welch Theatre and is recommended for mature audiences as there are adult situations.

Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” will fill in the roster as the season’s classical offering.

“And because it will be our classic,” explained Stanley, “we are putting on a performance that will remain true to the original production. It will remain set in 1895 London as it was when Wilde wrote it.”

The play, a satire on the trappings of upper-crust Victorian life and an efficient vehicle for Wilde’s infamous wit, is most likely the best known in the lineup. It has been the source of hundreds of stage productions and three films since it premiered in 1895. “Because we’re treating it as a classical play, audiences will get a window into the style, the culture, the fashion … all of the wonderful things that made up the world of the play when it was originally produced.”

“The Importance of Being Earnest” will run from Nov. 20 through 23 and is recommended for all audiences.

From Feb. 13 through 15 the theater department will host special guest Ronald Rand for “LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurmen’s Life of Passion.” By staging the one-man play, the theater department is simultaneously affording students the opportunity to work with an internationally acclaimed performer and playwright, and offering audiences a unique glimpse into the life of “the most influential figure in the history of American theatre:” Harold Clurmen.

“He was quite simply a character,” Stanley explained, “charismatic, smart … and he rubbed noses with all sorts of famous people. It will be an engaging performance whether you’re interest is American theater or not.” Clurmen was an author, director, writer, critic and co-founder of the famed Group Theatre of the 1930s – arguably one of the most important contributions to American theatre past or present.

The 2013-2014 season will be rounded off by a collaboration between the theater and music departments, with N.J. Stanley directing and Dr. Gary Boerckel directing the music.

Marc Blitzstein’s early American musical “The Cradle Will Rock” is set in the fictitious 1937 town of “Steeltown, USA” and peopled by “larger-than-life, almost cartoonish characters” like Larry Foreman and Mr. Mister, Stantley said. The critique of big business was controversial when it premiered and arguably poignant today. “Blitzstein’s biggest claim to fame,” Stanley said, “was his English translation of Berthold Brecht’s ‘Three Penny Opera’,” the Lycoming theater and music departments’ successful collaboration from the 2012-2013 season.

Finally, the department is excited to announce the fact that student-run performances will be open to the public for the first time this year and completely free in the student theatre “The Dragon’s Lair.” Details about the performances will be announced throughout the semester.

All performances in the Mary L. Welch Theatre will be held at 8 p.m. Details regarding the Dragon’s Lair productions will be announced during the fall semester.

For tickets or more information, visit theatre or call the box office at 321-4048.