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"Black Box Productions" Will Showcase Talented Student Directors

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The University Theatre continues its 2013-2014 season with Black Box Productions, a showcase of student-directed short plays in the William Inge Memorial Theatre, Murphy Hall. Performances run Feb. 14-15 and Feb. 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for Black Box Productions are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center at (785) 864-ARTS. Black Box Productions tickets are $15 for the public, $14 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for all students and children.

Now in its fourth year, Black Box Productions puts the reins in the hands of students—it is their opportunity to direct, cast, rehearse, and perform for the public with a limited schedule and budget. After receiving proposals last fall, KU Theatre faculty selected The Boor and Antic Disposition: Variations of Haml3t for performance.

Brian Buntin, Paola senior, directs Anton Chekhov’s comedic one-act The Boor. The play, also known as The Bear: A Joke in One Act, is considered to be one of the finest one-act plays of the Russian School of Drama. The plot follows Helena Ivanovna Popov (Abby Hadel, Lenexa junior), a recent widow whose mourning is interrupted by Grigori Stepanovitch Smirnov (Joshua A. Greene, Albany, Mo., junior), a misogynistic landowner who insists that she must immediately settle her late husband’s large debt. Hilarity ensues an argument about the debt devolves into a fight about the nature of men, women, and true love.

For Buntin, an interest working on classical pieces began while taking directing classes within the Department of Theatre. “We learn the most by reading and studying the ‘greats’ that came before us.” Buntin said. “As an undergraduate director, I’m excited to keep honestly to Chekhov’s text as my first priority.”

Antic Disposition: Variations of Haml3t gives Shakespeare’s classic tragedy a contemporary twist. The piece is a collaborative project for Ph.D. students in the Department of Theatre—three directors will direct short interpretations of Hamlet using the same ensemble of six performers.

Danny Devlin (Fairfax, Va. Ph.D. student) directs The Fifteen Minute Hamlet by Tom Stoppard. Stoppard’s script contains all the famous lines, scenes and moments of Shakespeare’s original text—just not necessarily in the same order. In Devlin’s interpretation, a troupe of actors come together to perform Shakespeare’s greatest work, but are foiled when they are told by University Theatre administration they have only fifteen minutes in which to perform. Devlin said that the production requires skillful comedic performances by an engaged ensemble. There’s a frenetic quality to the script I am attracted to.” Devlin said. “I believe it provides an appropriate level of challenge for the undergraduate students while also putting pressure [on me] to direct in very specific circumstances.”

Jeanne Tiehen (Ralston, Neb. Ph.D. student) directs The Dick and Jane Hamlet by Larry Siegel, a late 1950’s piece originally intended for a first grade classroom. In the play, the ensemble retells Hamlet’s story in the simplistic style of the children’s Dick and Jane book series. Tiehen said she is excited to showcase using open-ended texts to create devised or collaborative work. “The simple and humorous design of this text lends itself to imaginative elaboration.” Tiehen said. “For the actors involved, this production’s collaboration will insist that their participation goes beyond the traditional expectations for an actor.”

Scott Knowles (St. George, Utah Ph.D. student) directs Hamletmachine by Heiner Müller, translated by Carl Weber. According to Knowles, the six-page script centers on Hamlet and Ophelia in a disjointed cacophonous manner and is up for wild debate and interpretation—as Hamlet refuses to be “Hamlet” any longer, the company will work together to discover the story within. “I love the potential this play provides to explore different issues of gender, sex, violence, communism, feminism, academia, and politics within the realm of representation.” Knowles said. “The focused-on themes or motifs will be determined while working with the actors. We, as a cast, will decide what our Hamletmachine will be about. “

In total, the Black Box Productions involve an ensemble of 10 performers playing a variety of roles. Gabriel Alaniz, Overland Park junior, is stage-managing the production and Jenifer Harmon, Kansas City, Mo. MFA student is the lighting designer.

The ensemble of Antic Disposition: Variations of Haml3t includes Zechariah Williams, Olathe sophomore; Justin Petty, Olathe senior; Jake Dutton, Andover freshman; Alena Ivanov, Lawrence freshman, Brianna Woods, Stillwell freshman, and Kendra J. Hacker, St. John freshman. Additional cast members of The Boor include Sophia Hail, Tulsa, Okla. sophomore as Luka and Elissa Bowen, Kansas City, Mo. freshman as Servant.

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